LSU will go with sophomore Alden Cartwright as its starting pitcher to start the NCAA Tournament on Friday against Lehigh.
This will mark the first start of the season for Cartwright. He's made 24 appearances out of the bullpen, accumulating a 3.79 ERA in 19 total innings. He's struck out 28 batters this year compared to just 4 walks. He hasn't thrown more than 1 inning in any of his outings this year.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said earlier in the day before announcing his starter that whoever took the mound likely wouldn't pitch long.
"The first guy's only going to go a couple innings probably," Mainieri said. "After that, we'll play it as the game dictates it. It's going to be treated like a midweek game."
Cartwright spent a chunk of his freshman season in 2014 as LSU's third starter when the Tigers' turned to a "Johnny Wholestaff" approach for the final game each weekend. He made four consecutive starts against SEC teams from April 9 - May 10. He also started the SEC Championship game against Florida, limiting the Gators to 1 hit in 4 scoreless innings as LSU went on to win the title.
Cartwright crashed back to Earth though in his next start. He took the mound in the decisive game against Houston in last year's Baton Rouge regional. He hit the first batter he faced on an 0-2 count then walked the next two on eight straight pitches.
Cartwright has been reserved to bullpen duty ever since.
He pitched in 10 SEC games this season, allowing 5 runs in a combined 8 2/3 innings. His most recent outing came in the SEC Tournament against Arkansas, giving up a run on 2 hits in 1 inning. He was the only LSU reliever to surrender a run in that game.
Cartwright likely won't have an extended outing Friday though. Mainieri said they'll treat it like a midweek game, and pitchers probably won't throw more than an inning with hopes of preserving their arms for later in the regional.
That bullpen had two strong outings at the SEC Tournament before blowing a late lead against Florida that led to LSU's elimination. Some have criticized LSU's bullpen throughout the year, but Mainieri has confidence his "Johnny Wholestaff" approach can get the Tigers past Lehigh.
"We call it 'the bullpen,' but really it's a bunch of individuals," Mainieri said. "Sometimes guys pitch well and some don't. I hate to group them all together and say they need a bounce-back game...One game does not destroy confidence."
Alden Cartwright to start Friday for LSU
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