Series preview: LSU baseball makes pitching changes for series against No. 1 Arkansas

LSU baseball and No. 4 Tennessee both have question marks on their pitching staffs heading into their SEC series. PHOTO BY: Jonathan Mailhes

LSU baseball has dropped two-straight SEC series to start the year, and things won’t get any easier from here.

No. 8 LSU has a road trip to face one of the toughest opponents in the country, No. 1 Arkansas.

LSU (20-6, 2-4 SEC) is coming off an 8-4 win over Southeastern Louisiana but has dropped its first two SEC series of the season. The Tigers were run-ruled by Florida in game three against the Gators on Sunday to drop the series 1-2.

Arkansas (20-3, 5-1 SEC) is coming off an 11-0 win in seven innings over Little Rock on Tuesday and has won both of its SEC series so far this season. The Razorbacks took the first two games over Auburn last weekend to claim the series before dropping game three 8-6.

Arkansas’ hot start to the season has been powered by one of the best pitching staffs in the country. The Razorbacks lead the country in ERA (2.50), strikeouts per nine innings (13.2) and WHIP (1.00).

Their ace Hagen Smith has yet to give up a run in conference play in his two starts. He’s gone 12.0 innings while allowing just five hits and recording 22 strikeouts against SEC opponents. He is 2-0 in both starts. Smith has been arguably the best pitcher in the country this season and leads the country in strikeouts per nine innings. 

Smith will start game one against LSU today, but the Tigers have yet to announce who they will be starting. LSU head coach Jay Johnson is changing up the pitching lineup after throwing Luke Holman to lead off the last two series.

Holman will start game two against Mason Molina and Gage Jump will start game three against Brady Tygart. Thatcher Hurd threw 90 pitches on Sunday and is unlikely to start tonight.

Hurd was the Friday pitcher for LSU to start the season but eventually fell down the order to become the day three starter. He has a 7.09 ERA this season through 26.2 innings pitched and has a 1-3 record.

Kade Anderson, Javen Coleman, Griffin Herring and Sam Dutton are the only pitchers to start games for LSU this season. Nate Ackenhausen doesn’t have a start this season, but started for the Tigers at the College World Series last season.

Dutton and Anderson both pitched on Tuesday. Herring hasn’t pitched since he went three scoreless innings against Florida on Friday. Coleman hasn’t pitched since he gave up two runs in two innings against Florida on Sunday.

Molina has a 3-0 record for the Razorbacks this year with a 2.57 ERA and 47 strikeouts. His ERA drops to 0.87 in conference play, and he’s only given up one run on four hits in two SEC starts. His last start was in Saturday’s loss to Auburn. He went 5.0 innings and gave up three hits, one run and four walks.

Molina will matchup with Holman on Friday. Holman has a 0.78 ERA this season and gave up just one hit and one run in LSU’s win over the Gators last Friday.

Tygart will start game three for Arkansas. Tygart has a 1.59 ERA this season and is 3-0. He’s gone 28.1 innings this season with 39 strikeouts to 16 walks. His last start came in Arkansas’ game two win over Auburn. He went 3.2 innings and gave up three hits, three runs and five walks in that game.  

Tygart will pitch against Jump on Saturday. Jump has a 2.38 ERA this season and gave up two hits and two earned runs against the Gators last Saturday. Jump has a 2-0 record on the season.

Both LSU and Arkansas have struggled with hitting this season. The Razorbacks are No. 13 in the SEC with a .279 batting average. They have 36 doubles, three triples and 33 homers this season. Their batting average in SEC play is .236.

Peyton Holt leads the Razorbacks with a .327 batting average this season. Wehiwa Aloy leads the team in RBI with 24 and home runs with five.

LSU has a .293 batting average this season. The Tigers’ batting average drops to .236 in SEC play. Hayden Tranvinski leads the team with a .333 batting average and 27 RBI. Jared Jones leads the way with 10 home runs. Tommy White hit a homer on Tuesday and has seven on the season.

“We’ve got a tremendous challenge this weekend at Arkansas,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to play in our best character. I think we learned some things last weekend. We’re not totally where we want to be yet, but at the same time, we were one pitch away from winning that series against one of the best teams in the country. This is what we signed up for, and we’re really excited about going up to Arkansas.”

Game one between LSU and Arkansas will start at 6 p.m. tonight and will be televised on ESPN 2.

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