After the first spring practice with every pitcher healthy in quite some time, LSU head coach Paul Mainieri has settled on his starting rotation for next weekend’s season opening series against Indiana in Alex Box Stadium.
Sophomore Cole Henry was already slated to be the Opening Night starter, but on Friday Mainieri announced that fellow sophomore Landon Marceaux and redshirt sophomore AJ Labas will start games two and three respectively.
“(Marceaux and Labas) are so close in ability, it could have very easily been the other way around,” Mainieri said. “I just thought that we ended the season last year with Henry No. 1 and Marceaux No. 2, and Marceaux is the guy with some big game experience. Game two is such a pivotal game in a weekend series, so we ought to go with the guy with a little more experience.”
Mainieri would not comment on whether or not redshirt junior Eric Walker or any other pitcher would start one of the two midweek games.
“We haven’t decided the midweek starters for next week, and that’s an honest answer,” Mainieri said. “We’re going to get through this weekend. You don’t expect your starting pitchers to go deep into the game opening weekend. So I have a feeling we’re going to be using virtually everybody out of the bullpen if necessary. And then after the weekend is over, we’ll re-evaluate where we are, who’s available, who wasn’t used that much.”
Henry emerged as LSU’s Friday night starter last year, despite missing the final four weeks of the regular season with arm soreness. In the Super Regional opener against Florida State, he tweaked his arm and left after just two innings in which he allowed no runs and no hits balancing three strikeouts and three walks.
He finished the season with a 3.39 ERA in 58.1 innings, recording 72 strikeouts and only allowing 18 walks.
Like Henry, Marceaux missed a large portion of the season with arm soreness. But Marceaux was injured with enough time left in the season to return and string together a couple of impressive performances late in the year. In his last four starts before the Super Regional when Florida State tagged him for four runs on eight hits in 3.2 innings in game two, Marceaux had a 1.55 ERA in games against Arkansas, Auburn twice, and Stony Brook. He finished his up-and-down freshman campaign with a 4.66 ERA in 58 innings with 43 strikeouts and 20 walks.
Marceaux has since gotten back to full health, lost weight and re-tooled his pitching arsenal, giving him confidence to re-assume his old spot in the rotation.
“I haven’t been sore yet, so that’s a good thing,” Marceaux said. “It means a lot to be able to start on Saturdays for the Tigers. Looking forward to it.”
Labas missed all of 2019 after redshirting due to a shoulder injury. In 2018, he served as a midweek starter primarily, posting a 3.48 ERA in 54.1 innings with 32 strikeouts and just seven walks.
After a year away, Labas is ready to not only return to the mound, but take the step forward and become an important part of the Tigers’ weekend rotation.
“This fall I was able to prove who I really am and what I can really do, and I earned a spot,” Labas said. “It’s means a lot because here it’s Championship Sunday. It means a lot putting that jersey on and going out there for the sweep or the series win. It’s going to be a fun year and I’m really excited to see what’s in store for us.”
Friday’s season opener is set for 7 p.m., followed with games on Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 12 noon.