None of LSU’s starting pitchers in the past four games have made it past the fourth inning, a major contribution in the Tigers having lost three straight combined to Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech.
Despite that alarming statistic, and the fact LSU will again be without injured would-be Friday night starter Cole Henry, coach Paul Mainieri said Wednesday he is sticking to his plan of continuing to bring former Friday night starter Zack Hess out of the bullpen.
“We eventually came to the conclusion Hess was outstanding coming out of the bullpen and maybe not outstanding as a starting pitcher,” Mainieri said before LSU headed out to fly to Arkansas for a critical series in Fayetteville. “I think Hess stands out in a big way in the bullpen.
“Now you just hope you can get to Hess. We have to have a lead, a lead at a reasonable time in the game in order to get the ball to Hess to have a chance. That’s up to the starting pitchers and the offense.”
LSU will likely start Ma’Khail Hilliard in Thursday’s series opener (6:30 p.m., ESPNU). Hilliard went four innings Friday in the Tigers’ 8-3 victory over Ole Miss, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out four. Hess then pitched four innings of one-run relief with seven strikeouts before giving way to Devin Fontenot for the ninth.
Because Hess threw 55 pitches against the Rebels he was unavailable the rest of the weekend. Mainieri said ideally he would try to conserve Hess so that he could pitch twice at Arkansas, but added the overriding emphasis as Friday against Ole Miss will be to get a win under any circumstances.
“You’ve got to deal with reality,” Mainieri said. “We’ve got six games left in the league, seven overall, and every win matters now. You’ve got to assure yourself of the more immediate goals. Right now we’ve got to try to win a game as the opportunity presents itself.”
LSU enters the Arkansas series 30-19 overall and 14-10 in SEC play.