Even with LSU’s loaded pitching staff this season, someone has to toe the mound on Friday nights to get the weekend series off on the right note. Cole Henry left no doubt that he is up to that task after a dominant four-inning performance that granted him the win against the Indiana Hoosiers on opening night of LSU’s 2020 season.
Henry’s line for the night included just three hits, no walks, no runs, and a whopping eight strikeouts. Everything was working for the sophomore out of Florence, AL.
“First game of the series out of the way, everything felt great,” Henry said. “I kinda pitched off the energy in the stadium.”
Coach Paul Mainieri was very complimentary of Henry and his strong performance
“Cole Henry set the tone for us early,” Mainieri stated. “He was dominant. He hasn’t shown that kind of velocity in the preseason with us. It was nice to know that he still had that and the way he threw tonight is like a Friday night starter in the SEC has to throw to give you a chance to win.”
To keep Henry fresh for the long haul, Paul Mainieri had Henry on a short leash for pitches. Henry finished the night with 71 , which fit right in with Mainieri’s range of 75 as previously stated before the weekend.
“It’s tough,” Henry said of Mainieri’s decision to preserve him for the rest of the season.
“I tried to say, 'Coach, Coach let me stay in there, and he was like ‘Nah, you need to stop letting hitters get into 3-2 counts then,’ and I was like, ‘Damn, that’s true,’” he laughed.
“I would have loved to let Cole Henry go five innings, but, you know, he ran too many full counts, and it caused his pitch count to get up there, and I just didn’t want to go past 70 or 75 pitches with him,” Mainieri added on. “He didn’t even want to come out of the game, but it was a decision I had to make to make sure we keep a full long season, so game one of hopefully about 18 or 19 starts for him.”
Henry was one of the SEC’s most dominant pitchers last season, with his infamous knee-breaking curveball finishing off many of the conference’s top hitters. His 72 K was second on the team only to Zack Hess, with only about 60% of his appearances. Combine that with only 18 walks, and Henry led the LSU pitching staff in K/BB ratio (4.0). With Hess now gone, Henry is tabbed with becoming the next great Friday night starter for LSU, joining the likes of other Tiger greats such as Aaron Nola and Alex Lange. There is certainly no doubt that he has the stuff to do it.
The only concern has been his health, which came into question during last year’s Super Regional matchup against Florida State, when shortly after his start in Game 1 of the three game series, he was pulled from the game with arm soreness. LSU faithful had feared the worst, but as of tonight, there seems to be no signs of any lingering injury.
“He hasn’t had an any issue at all,” Mainieri reassured. “He’s in as good a condition as he can be, and he changed his arm action a little bit to take a little strain off of it. We’ve done so much analysis of his body movement and all that stuff, that you know, anything can happen, of course, but he felt great.”
Henry will look to continue his momentum in his next start Friday against Eastern Kentucky, and if tonight’s utter dominance on the mound is any indication of what he has in store for this season, hitters across the country will be groaning all year as they walk back to their dugouts with their bats still sitting in their hands.