John Valek III won’t be the only left-handed Akron transfer taking the mound inside Alex Box Stadium this weekend.
Ball State’s Friday night starter, 6-foot-7 southpaw Kevin Marnon, was a member of the Zips program last year, although he was ineligible after he transferred from East Tennessee State following the 2014 season.
Marnon made the cross-conference swap to the Cardinals after Akron disbanded its program, leaving all of the players immediately eligible at whatever school they chose.
“I’ve actually been texting him today talking to him about it and everything,” Valek said. “I’m excited to see him pitch in an actual, real game. I’ve seen him throw in some scrimmages and stuff. He’s a good pitcher, would have probably been in our weekend rotation at Akron had it not been disbanded.”
Valek, who will start Sunday’s series finale, is familiar with more than just Marmon.
This will be the fourth time he’s pitched against the Cardinals who, like the Zips, are in the Mid-American Conference.
He threw 7.1 innings of four-run baseball on April 4, 2015, against Ball State, saddled with the loss in a 4-1 Akron defeat. Valek had a similar outing in 2014, lasting 7.1 innings while allowing just two earned runs in a 5-2 Akron win.
“They’re not just going to be a team that we can walk in there and roll over,” Valek said. “It’s going to be exciting to play against a team I’m actually familiar with, but be in a different uniform … I know some of their tendencies, not so much specific with guys, but me facing them for the fourth time helps me understand their approach as a team.”
The Tigers will counter with their same weekend rotation for the fourth straight series: Jared Poche on Friday, Alex Lange on Saturday and Valek on Sunday.
Bryce Jordan thinks he’ll play
Speaking for the first time since a collision with a photographer left him with a sprained ankle and held out of LSU’s last two games, Bryce Jordan said he thinks he’ll play in the weekend series against Ball State.
Jordan was set to run after speaking with reporters on Thursday, but said the injury “feels great” when he’s hitting.
“Probably so, but I’m not quite sure,” Jordan said when asked if he’d be the team’s designated hitter instead of playing first base. “It’s a (soreness) thing. It’s just sore around the area of the ankle. Other than that, it’s just what I can deal with. I’m ready to play. If (LSU coach Paul Mainieri) will let me then I’m ready.”
Jordan, who was on crutches and in a boot Monday, spoke Thursday with the ankle taped and without crutches.
Mainieri said, as of Thursday, the plan was to play all three games of the series as scheduled as more rain is in the forecast for Baton Rouge this weekend.
Ball State does have a Sunday travel curfew — no new inning can start after 3:30 p.m. that day — so if a doubleheader is required, Mainieri said it would be an early start.
Mainieri said the weather will not impact his pitching plans and his three starters will start each game regardless of forecast.