Baseball vs. Mississippi St.

LSU baseball junior right-handed pitcher Jaden Hill (0) watches the game from the bullpen Saturday, March 20, 2021 during LSU's 3-0 loss against Mississippi St. at Alex Box Stadium on Gourrier Avenue in Baton Rouge, La.  

Replacing Jaden Hill

LSU announced Monday evening that Jaden Hill would miss the remainder of the season with a UCL tear. The injury occurred in Hill’s start on Friday when the right-hander threw a pitch with one out in the second inning and turned backward toward the outfield, appearing to feel some discomfort. Head Coach Paul Mainieri quickly left the dugout to check on his starter. He tried to throw another pitch but didn’t feel right and was removed from the game.

Moving forward, LSU now has a hole to fill in its starting rotation. Mainieri said Monday that AJ Labas will be moved up a day, going from his normal Sunday spot to Saturday.

By giving Garrett Edwards the start in Tuesday’s win over McNeese State, Mainieri’s decision on whom to give the final spot in the weekend rotation to is likely down to three players: Edwards, Will Hellmers and Blake Money.

Mainieri wanted to give Edwards an opportunity to start a game — something he hasn’t done since Feb. 24 against ULL — to get a look at what he could potentially be in that role.

Also in the running are Hellmers and Money. Hellmers, the typical mid-week starter, gave up just three earned runs in 16 innings in his four starts, all LSU wins. Mainieri said in his post-game press conference that he kept Money in Friday’s game for 4.2 innings to get a look at him in an extended role and possibly start on the weekend.

“I thought Garrett Edwards threw well,” Mainieri said. “That was something I wanted to see how that looked. Blake Money is certainly a candidate as well. We’re just going to take it one game at a time and have all hands on deck this weekend. I’m sure what we’ll announce is Marceaux, Labas and then TBA and see where we are after two games.”

Future of the bullpen

Mainieri talked Monday about the outlook of the backend of his bullpen, highlighting two pitchers he likes for late inning situations moving forward.

“We’re going to pretty much focus on using [Devin] Fontenot and [Ty] Floyd at the end of the games,” he said. “Once we get to the sixth inning on and if we have a chance to win, I think it’ll be primarily Fontenot and Floyd at that point.”

Looking past those two, the already struggling bullpen is stretching itself thin.

Graduate student Matthew Beck is still recovering from an arm injury he suffered in February. Mainieri said he has begun throwing again recently, but that “it’s going to be a slow, tedious process.” Freshman Javen Coleman is another bullpen arm out. He hasn’t pitched since March 14, with the reason for his absence unknown.

With one of Edwards, Hellmers and Money destined to start and Fontenot and Floyd set aside for late innings, that leaves 10 pitchers at Mainieri’s disposal for the middle innings. Five of those 10 have earned run averages over 5.00.

Giovanni DiGiacomo returns

Mainieri announced Monday that centerfielder Giovanni DiGiacomo would return to the LSU lineup for Tuesday’s game against McNeese State. The junior center fielder had missed the two previous weekend series versus Tennessee and Vanderbilt when he reinjured his hamstring on March 21 at home against Mississippi State.

In Tuesday’s win, DiGiacomo hit a double and drove in two runs in three at-bats and looked like his usual self defensively in centerfield.

“It was like I hadn’t left,” he said.

DiGiacomo brings stability to a position where it has been hard to come by in recent weeks. Mainieri’s go-to option has been Will Safford, but the freshman has just two hits in 21 at-bats since DiGiacomo’s reinjury.

“We’re a better team if Gio is in there,” Mainieri said. “I tried Will Safford, but you can tell he’s just lacking experience.”

Health wise, DiGiacomo says he’s 100% back. Mainieri isn’t so sure.

“He tells me he’s 100%,” Mainieri said Tuesday. “I haven’t seen him run full speed in a game yet. In practice yesterday I wouldn’t have described it as 100% yet. If I had to put a number on it I’d say 80-90%. There hasn’t been a need for him to fully extend yet so we’ll see.”

NCAA adjusts postseason 

The NCAA announced Monday that the host sites for this season’s Regional and Super Regional tournament will be predetermined rather than giving schools the opportunity to earn the ability to host.

The sites for both rounds will be announced early May, and the deadline for schools to submit a bid to be a host site is April 12.

When asked if he had any knowledge of LSU’s plans to possibly submit a bid, Mainieri said that it was the first he had heard the news.

“That’s news to me,” he said. “I haven’t talked to anybody about it.”

The move to predetermined sites is due to more time being needed to prepare the host sites for the tournament than under normal circumstances, with increased safety measures needed to keep players and staff healthy throughout the postseason.

Predetermined sites for postseasons in college sports this year are nothing new. The men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, which concluded earlier this week, took place entirely in Indianapolis and San Antonio, respectively, rather than having the usual four separate sites for each region.

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