LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson names Gage Jump starting pitcher against Northern Illinois

PHOTO By LSU Athletics

LSU baseball started the season 4-0 after beating both VMI and Central Arkansas twice in four days and is now headed into another four-game stretch where it plays both Northern Illinois and Stony Brook twice.

After an opening weekend that saw highly ranked teams like Wake Forest, Florida, Arkansas and Vanderbilt drop games, head coach Jay Johnson and the Tigers won’t be taking any of the teams they face lightly.

“I think [Northern Illinois] swings the bat confidently and there’s a couple of really good hitters in the middle of their order,” Johnson said. “I think a new coach, usually there’s good energy around that when that’s the case and you can tell they are trying to build an identity with what they’re doing.”

After playing four games in four days, Johnson said his team is in good shape heading into another four-game stretch starting on Thursday.

“I think on the position player side the depth allows us to take care of guys,” Johnsons said. “I think having that 27-5 game on Sunday kind allowed it to serve as a lighter day for a few of those guys that will probably be in there a lot which was good. We gave those players that played the most the day off yesterday as kind of a recovery thing.”

Johnson announced that the starter for Thursday will be UCLA transfer Gage Jump. Jump, who’s coming off Tommy John surgery, pitched just one inning during the opening weekend but made the most of his limited time on the mound.

“I think [Jump] will pitch more than he did last weekend,” Johnson said.

Jump needed just 11 pitches last Friday to retire the side in the ninth inning and recorded two strikeouts. Though Jump said he feels good coming back from the injury, he’ll still be on a pitch count on Thursday. He said he expects to throw around 45-50 pitches on Thursday and he might go only two or three innings as he tries to ramp up for the season.

“I’m super excited,” Jump said. “With Coach Johnson and Coach Yeskie, we’ve been conservatively kind of ramping myself up and now that I’m able to start and get some innings in there, I’m super pumped about it. I’ll be fun.”

Thatcher Hurd will start on Friday against Stony Brook and Luke Holman will start on Saturday against Northern Illinois. Johnson said that the Sunday starter is yet to be decided and will be based on how the first three games go.

Hurd struggled in his first start of the season. He went 2.2 innings giving up five hits and four earned runs against VMI.

“[Hurd] is the best pitcher in the country for eight hitters and two strikes right there,” Johnson said. “[VMI] is a very good hitting team with at least four or five fifth year players, seven of nine guys that were back and they just put together some good at bats. The best takeaway for me was I thought he was in control of himself. The game didn’t turn into a mess with him walking people. We walked a guy, the nine hitter, on a 3-2 count. It was a pretty close pitch and if he would have got rung up nobody would have said anything about it.”

Hurd pitched well through the first two innings, giving up just one hit and recording three strikeouts before VMI had its big third inning that led to him being pulled from the game.

“We probably could have left him in, and he might have turned it around and done fine,” Johnson said. “It’s just me doing my job. I came out of that not too worried. I thought he was in control of himself and it’s a good pattern forward, so I’m not alarmed by that at all.”

Holman put in one of the best pitching performances of the opening weekend for LSU in his start against Central Arkansas on Saturday. He pitched 5.1 innings and gave up just three hits and recorded 10 strikeouts in the 2-0 win.

LSU’s game first against Northern Illinois on Thursday and Friday’s game against Stony Brook will both start at 2 p.m. Saturday’s game against Northern Illinois and Sunday’s game against Stony Brook will both start at 1 p.m.

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