Will LSU make pitching changes ahead of series with Florida? Here’s who Jay Johnson plans to start

LSU prepares for a College World Series rematch against Florida this weekend. PHOTO BY: LSU athletics

Not that long ago No. 5 LSU and No. 8 Florida were competing for a spot atop the college baseball world.

Now, less than a year later, both teams are trying to keep from falling too far down the college baseball rankings after lackluster starts to the season.

Florida (12-8, 2-1 SEC) has the second worst overall record in the SEC ahead of only Missouri. The Gators dropped their season opener to St. John’s and have struggled to maintain consistency this season. They looked to be on the right track after a 2-1 series win over undefeated Texas A&M this weekend, but they dropped their midweek game against Jacksonville this week.

LSU (18-4, 1-2 SEC) jumped out to a better start than Florida but fell flat in its first SEC series of the year. The Tigers were 17-2 and the No. 2 team in the country before getting shelled by Mississippi State over the weekend and losing the series 1-2. They responded with a run-rule win over Louisiana Tech on Tuesday.

“We’re similar in the fact this year they have some guys there that maybe weren’t those frontline guys that moved up in their pecking order on there team,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said. “We both still have stars. They have Caglianone we have White.”

LSU’s pitching struggled heavily during the series loss to the Bulldogs, but the reemergence of Tommy White has been a welcome sight for Tiger fans. Before last weekend White had two home runs and 12 RBI as he came back from offseason shoulder surgery.

White has now hit a homer in four straight games and added nine RBI to bring his season totals up to six home runs and 21 RBI. He has also batted .500 or higher in three straight games now. LSU as a team is batting .300 with 31 homers. Ten of those homers have come in the last four games.

“I think the credit goes to [White] that his body is in really good shape,” Johnson said. “We’re still, I don’t want to call it rehabbing, but he’s still having to add strength back that he lost. And now we’re being able to do more in the weight room with coach McMillian I think there’s been an immediate improvement with that. Great talent, super motivated, good plan, competitive, I’ll always bet on those guys.”

Two-way player Jac Caglianone leads Florida with a .414 batting average this season. He has nine home runs and 21 RBI on the season and is coming off a two-homer game in Florida’s 7-6 midweek loss. Colby Shelton leads the team in RBI with 24 and home runs with 10. Florida is batting .298 with 44 home runs.

Caglianone also leads the Gators with a 1.77 ERA this season through 20.1 innings pitched. He’s giving up a .132 batting average to opposing batters this season and is 2-0. Ryan Slater is second on the team with a 3.74 ERA through 21.2 innings pitched. Cade Fisher leads the team in innings pitched with 22.2 and has a 7.94 ERA.

Fisher started game one against Texas A&M last weekend and Caglianone started game three. Liam Peterson started game two. Peterson has a 7.50 ERA this season through 18 innings pitched in five starts. Florida has the worst ERA of any team in the SEC with a 5.78 this season. The Gators give up a .243 batting average to opponents.

LSU’s pitching was the strength of the team until the weekend collapse against the Bulldogs that saw the Tigers give up 33 runs in three games. Johnson announced today that the starting pitchers against Florida will be the same as they were against Mississippi State.

“We’re just going as we did last weekend,” Johnson said.

Luke Holman gave up his first earned runs of the season in game one against Mississippi State but still boasts a 0.63 ERA through 28.2 innings pitched. Gage Jump also gave up his first earned runs of the year in game two and has an ERA of 2.12 through 17 innings pitched.

Thatcher Hurd gave up seven earned runs in game three and now has a season ERA of 6.55 through 22 innings pitched. Hurd’s ERA is the worst of any LSU pitcher that has started this season. The Tigers have posted a 3.74 ERA this season and are holding opponents to a .225 batting average.

Game one between Florida and LSU will start at 7 p.m. Friday night in Alex Box Stadium and will be televised on SEC Network. Game two will start at 6 p.m. on Saturday and can be streamed on SEC Network+. Game three will start at 2 p.m. Sunday and will be televised on SEC Network.

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