The junior has been used sparingly during his three years as a Tiger, mostly as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen. His 12 appearances this season are the third fewest on the team.
A shoulder injury did sideline him for about three weeks early in the SEC schedule. He’s 100 percent now, but he’s only pitched three times since April 7.
“It’s been very tough,” Devall said of his limited role. “Everybody on our staff wants to get out there and pitch every weekend. But you have to stay mentally prepared for when you get your shot.”
Starting a game will be a mostly new experience for him. His only other start for LSU came in 2013, when he threw 2 scoreless innings against Southern.
In his 12 outings this season, he’s never thrown more than an inning, and only once in his career has he thrown at least three in a game. The average length of an outing through 46 college appearances is just a bit more than 1 inning.
Paul Mainieri said he isn’t sure how long Devall will pitch Tuesday.
“I’m excited to give him a chance to start a game,” Devall said. “I don’t know what to expect. He may pitch one inning, may pitch three, may pitch five. We’ll see what the game dictates and how well he’s doing. I’d like to see him dominate the game for three or four innings.”
No. 1 LSU (43-8) at UNO (14-36)
Ron Maestri Field at Privateer Park | New Orleans, La.
Tuesday, May 12, 6:30 p.m. | Cox Sports Television, ESPN3
LHP Hunter Devall (1-0, 4.00 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Kelleher (2-8, 3.80)
UNO’s had a rough year to this point. The Privateers have lost seven straight and 10 of their last 11. They’re in last place in the Southland Conference with six fewer wins than the team ahead of them in the standings.
“They’re probably at that position in the season where they feel like they have nothing to lose,” Mainieri said. “Their record’s not stellar, so they’re not playing for a conference championship. This is their chance to have a memory for their season.”
CLOSER IS THE NO. 1 CONCERN
Mainieri said Monday that the closer’s role is his biggest concern.
Jesse Stallings has occupied that spot through most of the season, but his recent struggles have finally caught up with him. Stallings blew another save opportunity this past weekend, his fourth since conference play began.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to do there yet,” Mainieri said. “Obviously it’s a concern. Jesse’s got a lot of talent. He’ll continue to contribute to our team, but I’m not sure it’ll be in that role. We’ll consider other options.”
Those other options include Jake Godfrey, Parker Bugg, Zac Person, Alden Cartwright and Russell Reynolds. Mainieri said he might not designate one person as the closer though, saying they could go with their “gut feeling” on a given night.
He’s proven this season that he’s willing to let a pitcher go two or three innings to close a game if they’re throwing well enough.
But Mainieri can’t ignore the issue. The Tigers have blown a lead after the seventh inning eight times in seven conference games. Fortunately for them though, their record in those games is 5-2.
Mainieri would rather not be in those situations to begin with.
“That’s probably the No. 1 thing, because you’ve got to hold those leads,” he said. “We’ve been able to overcome it for the most part. Nothing’s perfect in life. We’ve won 43 games, so it’s hard to complain about much.”
---Austin Bain has likely earned his place as LSU’s third starter. He went He only surrendered one run on two hits Sunday out of the bullpen after losing his spot in the rotation. “I’m pretty confident Austin Bain is going to be back in the rotation this weekend,” Mainieri said.
---Alex Lange was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for the third time this season. He gave up one run on two hits in seven innings Saturday against Missouri to earn his ninth win of the season.
---LSU remained the No. 1 team in all six major human polls, the fourth consecutive week they’ve been the consensus No. 1. The Tigers rank fifth in the NCAA RPI and lead the SEC by 1.5 games. LSU’s almost a lock to be a national seed in the NCAA Tournament.