LSU pitcher Jaden Hill ready to bounce back in Friday’s home baseball series opener vs. UTSA

PHOTO by Jonathan Mailes

Perhaps one thing LSU junior pitcher Jaden Hill may have forgotten about being a starter rather than a reliever is if you have a poor performance you have to wait an entire week until your spot in the rotation comes back around.

A week after an uncharacteristically bad outing, Hill steps on the mound Friday night at 7 in Alex Box Stadium to face the University of Texas-San Antonio (5-3) as the 19th ranked Tigers (11-3) open their final non-conference series before starting SEC play next week.

And after what happened to Hill last Friday in a 22-7 loss to unheralded Oral Roberts – he got hammered in the first inning for eight runs and five hits, hitting a batter with a pitch, walking in two runs and recording just one out – he immediately went. back to work the next day to figure out what went wrong.

The quick explanation: Hill relied too much on his fastball which Oral Roberts hitters timed up and he wasn’t throwing his breaking ball for strikes.

“My performance was unacceptable,” said Hill, who’s transitioning back to a starter this year after he was a reliever in the Tigers’ 17-game coronavirus-shortened season. “All the responsibility is on me. I have to be better and wiil be better.

“Right after that game, I went straight back to work the next day. I kept going harder, harder all week. So, I’m really feeling good about tomorrow. I can’t promise I’ll go nine innings, but you will get the best version of me.”

LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he felt Hill’s tough night at the office was “abberation, a crazy set of circumstances.”

“I am anxious to see how Jaden handles it mentally,” Mainieri said, “and that he puts it behind him quickly and goes out there very confidently and very aggressively and establishes command dominance right away.”

Hill is confident he’ll get back in the winning flow.

“After that outing, I was real disappointed because I’m really, really hard on myself,” he said. “I could have easily cursed, threw my glove, hit something, just be mad at the world.

“I’ve been here before, I’ve faced adversity before. I know what I have to do. I learned many lessons growing up with my dad for the game and for real life. I know preparation is the key, that’s the only way I’m going to have an opportunity to do good.”

Mainieri said he wants to see Hill mix his pitches more “right from the start, instead of relying on his fastball and trying to establish his slider.”

Hill agrees.

“I know I need third secondary pitch,” Hill said. “I worked with different pitch grips with A.D. (LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn) and refined my pitch location.”

Though Baylor canceled its Saturday date with LSU when they found (with Mainieri’s help) a home opponent to play this weekend in Waco, Mainieri said a three-game series against UTSA is the perfect lead-in for the Tigers stepping into SEC play with a three-game home series starting next Friday vs. No. 4 ranked Mississippi State.

“UTSA is going to be a very challenging team,” Mainieri said. “They’ve hit good pitching this season. They’ve been scoring in double-digits and hitting over a home run per game, so it’s going to be a challenging offensive team for us to face.

“They’ve got good arms on the mound, and we’re going to be facing 90 mph plus velocity with their pitching.”

UTSA, which lost 6-3 to No. 9 ranked TCU on Wednesday, is hitting .320 with 10 home runs. The UTSA pitching staff has a 2.74 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 69 innings. Opponents are batting .230 against the Roadrunners pitchers.

LSU, which won at home 10-4 over Texas Southern on Tuesday and 5-0 at UNO Wednesday, is batting .289 with 22 homers. The Tigers’ pitching staff has a 3.50 ERA with 154 strikeouts in 126 innings. Opponents are batting .226 against LSU pitching.

Nobody is swinging a hotter bat for the Tigers than freshman first baseman Tre’ Morgan. He enters Friday’s game with an 11-game hit streak and is batting .526 (10-for-19) in LSU’s last five games with two doubles, three triples, nine RBI, eight runs and two stolen bases.

Also, those Morgan triples in three straight games and counting have made him the first LSU player to accomplish the feat since Trey Watkins tripled in three consecutive contests in 2010.

PROJECTED PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday (7 p.m. SEC Network)

LSU junior RH Jaden Hill (2-1, 6.97 ERA, 10.1 innings pitched, 2 BB, 9 strikeouts) vs. UTSA sophomore RH Luke Malone (1-1, 3.38 ERA, 10.2 IP, 2 BB, 9 SO)

Saturday (7 p.m. SEC Network+)

LSU junior RH Landon Marceaux (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 17.0 IP, 0 BB, 21 SO) vs. UTSA sophomore RH John Chomko (0-0, 1.59 ERA, 5.2, IP, 3 BB, 6 SO)

Sunday (1 p.m. SEC Network+)

LSU junior RH AJ Labas (0-0, 3.14 ERA, 14.1 IP, 3 BB, 20 SO) vs. UTSA junior RH Reece Easterling (1-0, 1.74 ERA, 10.1 IP, 2 BB, 8 SO)

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