LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri has a team that’s lost six of its last seven games, that’s tied for last place in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division and is now dealing with the loss of his top starting pitcher for the remainder of the season.
Mainieri said during weekly news conference Monday that his Friday night starter Jaden Hill was definitely out of this weekend’s SEC series at Kentucky and that the long-term outlook “is not very positive” with the Tigers (17-11) set to host McNeese State (14-13) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Alex Box Stadium.
The school released a statement several hours later confirming Hill would miss the remainder of the season because of a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow.
“It’s heartbreaking for all of us to receive this news,” Mainieri said in the statement, “but it’s especially disappointing for Jaden as a young man who has such a bright future in baseball. We will do everything we can to support Jaden in his return to full health. He has a tremendous work ethic, and I’m very confident he will overcome this setback.”
Hill worked a scoreless first inning, recorded the first out of the second when he allowed a single and another batter reached on an infield fielding error in his start Friday against top-ranked Vanderbilt. The right-hander’s first pitch, a ball, to the third batter of the inning resulted in Hill grimaced in pain and deliberately walked back to the mound.
Mainieri and LSU baseball trainer Corey Couture came out to see check on Hill who explained he felt something in his elbow and was removed from the game after throwing 37 pitches . The diagnosis was confirmed Monday after team doctors conducted an examination of the elbow.
LSU will attempt to move on without out him and AJ Labas will move into Hill’s spot in the rotation on Saturdays with Sundays to be determined, Mainieri said.
In seven starts this season, Hill has a 2-3 record with a 6.67 earned run average. He’s pitched in 29.2 innings with 25 strikeouts and opponents have a .248 batting average against him.
The potential loss of Hill for an extended period of time is just the latest set to adverse circumstances to beset LSU entering the halfway point of the season. The Tigers, beginning with the McNeese games, are scheduled to play 27 more games, including seven more conference series.
“We’re at the midway point, let’s see what we can do with the rest of the way,” Mainieri said of his intended message at Monday’s practice to his club. “We’ve obviously dug ourselves a hole in the SEC. It’s a big hole. We’re not going to make up 10 games in one weekend or one day.
“Let’s just take it one game at a time, let’s see what we can do in the second half,” Mainieri said. “Let’s just forget about what happened in these first three weekends and let’s take it one day at a time this weekend against Kentucky, let’s experience some success and let’s move through the rest of the schedule and see how high we can finish.”
LSU will wear light blue batting helmets in Tuesday night’s game as part of Prostate Cancer Awareness to promote prostate screening.
Freshman Garrett Edwards (0-2, 3.38 ERA) will make his second start of the season and first since he got a no-decision Feb. 24 at UL Lafayette where he allowed three hits, one run and struck out four in his three-inning outing.
Mainieri said the first reliever in the game will be freshman Will Helmers.
He also expects to start Giovanni DiGiacomo in center field. The junior (.200 batting average) hasn’t started in a game since March 20, the second game of SEC series with Mississippi State because of an ongoing dilemma with a pulled groin muscle.
“All we can do is play McNeese State and hopefully gain some confidence back and hopefully end up the night scoring more runs than them,” Mainieri said. “Then get ready to go to Lexington and start to have some positive things happen there.”