FAYETTEVILLE -- No. 17 LSU is a little down and damaged heading into this weekend's three-game series against the Arkansas Razorbacks, who are trying to claim their second SEC West title in a row with six games remaining.
The Tigers have had an array of pitchers miss time with injuries, including top freshman Cole Henry (4-2, 3.26 ERA), who has elbow soreness and won't be in the rotation this weekend.
NO. 4 ARKANSAS vs. NO. 17 LSU
WHEN 6:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE Baum-Walker Stadium, Fayetteville
RECORDS LSU 30-19, 14-10 SEC; Arkansas 37-12, 17-7
LIKELY FRIDAY STARTING PITCHERS LSU Ma’Khail Hilliard (0-2, 4.59 ERA); Arkansas RHP Isaiah Campbell (8–1, 2.54 ERA)
RADIO Razorback Sports Network. Not all games will be carried by all affiliates. Check local listings.
THE WEEK AHEAD
THURSDAY LSU*, 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
FRIDAY LSU*, 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY LSU*, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
* SEC games
The Razorbacks (37-12, 17-7 SEC) moved up two spots to No. 4 in this week's USA Today coaches poll and hold a two-game lead over Ole Miss and Mississippi State in the West. The Rebels and Bulldogs play this weekend in Oxford, Miss.
Arkansas, which trails Vanderbilt by one game for the SEC's overall lead, will finish with the home set against traditional nemesis LSU, then travel to Texas A&M to complete the regular season.
LSU, which lost 12-1 at home to Louisiana Tech on Tuesday, is coming off a series loss to Ole Miss at Alex Box Stadium, the Rebels' first series win in Baton Rouge since 1982.
LSU won the opening game of the series 8-3, with Ole Miss winning second 5-1.
The SEC West rivals played a game for the ages on Sunday.
Ole Miss bolted to a 10-1 lead and held a 15-9 advantage with two outs and no runners on base in the bottom of the ninth. Saul Garza, Brandt Broussard and Zach Watson hit consecutive singles, then Antoine Duplantis, Cade Beloso and Josh Smith launched consecutive home runs off Ole Miss closer Parker Caracci to forge a 15-15 tie.
Ole Miss finally put the game away with four runs in the 10th for a 19-15 final.
"We scored six runs with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth, which was unbelievable," LSU Coach Paul Mainieri said on his weekly radio show Monday. "It was phenomenal what they did to come back. They don't sit around and pout about things."
Mainieri said his players probably processed the Sunday loss and the series loss better than he did.
"I have a feeling 18- to 22-year olds handle it a lot better than 61-year-old, 37-year veterans, you know," he said.
The Tigers have persevered through the run of injuries and are still in contention for the SEC West title and a bye, which is given to the top four teams, for the SEC Tournament.
"It's not the most enviable position to be in ... but we've got to get the job done," Mainieri said. "It's as simple as that."
Henry will be out for the third consecutive weekend since he struck out 12 batters in a 103-pitch stint over 5 1/3 innings in a 13-1 victory over Florida on April 19. The 6-4 right-hander from Florence, Ala., was named SEC co-freshman of the week for that effort, but he hasn't pitched since.
Jaden Hill, a top signee from Ashdown, has been out since February with an elbow problem. The 6-4 left-hander started and won a 17-5 victory over Air Force on the opening weekend then threw five more dominant innings in a victory over Bryant the following weekend before the elbow problem cropped up.
The Tigers are still trying to sort out their best pitching plan late in the season after none of their starters -- Ma'Khail Hilliard, sophomore Eric Walker and freshman Landon Marceaux, who missed three weeks early in the season with arm soreness -- pitched more than four innings against Ole Miss.
Zack Hess, who moved to the bullpen after a poor start at Alabama on April 26, threw 55 pitches on Friday. He tried to warm up without Mainieri's knowledge as the Tigers' bullpen struggled last Sunday, but Mainieri would not allow him to get loose and pitch for fear of over-use.
Walker handled the Razorbacks twice as a freshman in 2017. He earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for firing a 4-hitter in a 2-0 complete-game victory at Arkansas on 119 pitches April 19. Walker held the Hogs to a run on five hits in a 4-2 victory in the SEC Tournament championship game on May 28.
Would-be closer Devin Fontenot was racked for 4 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks in the 10th inning on Sunday by Ole Miss, his fifth shaky outing since April 14.
The Tigers rank 115th in the NCAA in pitching with a 4.55 ERA. Walker is 4-4 with a 5.30 ERA, while Hess is 3-3 with a 4.47 ERA and likely Friday starter Hilliard is 0-2 with a 4.59 ERA.
Marceaux's spot in the rotation might be at risk, since he came out of a rough start against Ole Miss with a 3-2 record and 7.04 ERA. Fontenot (4-1, 4.22, 6 saves) and big right-hander Todd Peterson (3-2, 4.11, 2 saves), a utility ace last year, both have ERAs over 4.00.
Sports on 05/08/2019
Print Headline: Calling all arms: Tigers still sorting out pitching staff