By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
OMAHA, Neb. — LSU will turn to a fifth-year senior who hasn’t started a game this season to lead the Johnny Wholestaff approach in Game One of the College World Series Finals.
Right-hander Russell Reynolds will take the ball for the Tigers, LSU coach Paul Mainieri announced on Sunday afternoon. The coach said LSU will use a “combination of guys” to piece together the game earlier Sunday.
“It won’t be too big for Reynolds,” Mainieri wrote in a text message to Tiger Rag. “He won’t be afraid.”
Reynolds hasn’t pitched much down the stretch run, but he threw a scoreless inning of relief in LSU’s 13-1 loss to Oregon State on Monday night. He hasn’t allowed a run in 1.2 innings of work over his last three appearances.
The veteran is 1-1 this season in 14 appearances (no starts) with an 8.59 ERA. He’s allowed 20 hits, issued 11 walks and struck out 12 in 14.2 innings of work. While his numbers are inflated by some midweek games gone array, Reynolds did throw three solid innings against TCU in the Houston College Classic, holding the Horned Frogs to one run on three hits while striking out four.
Reynolds found success as a starter earlier in his career. He pitched to a 1.89 ERA in seven games (three starts) in 2013 before undergoing shoulder surgery that kept him out for 2014. He went 6-0 in 20 appearances (three starts) with a 2.95 ERA in 2015 and 3-0 with a 4.08 ERA in 26 relief appearances last season.
The coach also shared that freshman right-hander Todd Peterson, who LSU used as a midweek starter late in the season, is dealing with a “tender arm” and “just isn’t himself right now.” That had to have factored into the decision.
As far as length, it’s anybody’s guess how far into the game Reynolds can get LSU. Three innings is his longest outing of the season, though Mainieri will likely stick with him for as long as he’s effective.
Whenever it’s time to pull him, the wholestaff approach will kick in as LSU, if it had a lead, turns to whoever it can to get the ball into the hands of closer Zack Hess.
“You’ve just got to be ready from the first pitch on,” reliever Hunter Newman said. “And when you name is called, just go out there and do your deal.”
With Jared Poche’ and Alex Lange slotted to start games two and three, it’d obviously be huge if LSU can find a way to steal game one. Florida is set to start right-hander Brady Singer, one of the best arms in the Southeastern Conference.
“We trust our guys who are piecing it together,” third baseman Josh Smith said. “They’re going to give it their best. If they just throw strikes and keep us in the game, our hitters will try to scratch out a few runs and see what we can do from there.”