BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU head coach Paul Mainieri is still looking for the right pitching combination early this season after the Tigers lost fixtures Alex Lange and Jared Poche' from the runners-up in Omaha.
Pitching was a big subject of discussion Thursday afternoon. Mainieri was pleased with the start Nick Bush gave the Tigers Wednesday night in Hammond.
"If he werent't so valuable out of the pin, he would be a candidate," Mainieri said. "We spent a lot of time talking about that today - about starting him. But the more times we can utilize him, the better."
Mainieri was also complimentary of the performance by another lefty, Taylor Petersen.
"When I took the ball from him on the mound, I told him right there on the mound, 'Man, you're growing on me.' What I loved about his performance is he went 3-0 on a batter and came back and struck him out," Mainieri added.
An attempt to get Todd Peterson up and running didn't go that well in Hammond. Mainieri said LSU's defensive alignment was to blame for the first run Peterson allowed. However, the two-run bomb Peterson surrendered was just a bad pitch.
"Todd's going to help us. I'm not down on him. He's going to help us. He's just had a bad start to the season," Mainieri explained.
Peterson will not start Sunday. True freshman AJ Labas, who was committed to former LSU head coach Smoke Laval at North Florida, finally gets his chance. Labas had back surgery in late December and has been grinding to get back to 100 percent.
"I'm excited," Labas said. "I can't wait for the opportunity. Just got to go out there and do my thing. Go out and compete. Embrace the environment."
There is good news for former Central Wildcat, Ma'khail Hilliard, who's done very well as a true freshman. That includes the other night against Grambling, in which he threw four shutout innings. It took him only 43 pitches to do so. Mainieri said he will be increasing Hilliard's role moving forward.
"When he's out there on the mound, I don't think he does anything to show up his opponents. But you can just tell he oozes in confidence," Mainieri said.
"I developed it in high school," Hilliard said. "I had bumps in the road when I got kind of mad on the mound. But I had to make sure I just keep my composure and fight hitters."
LSU will face Southeastern again Sunday, but this time at Alex Box.