After LSU’s 13-1 beatdown from Oregon State, LSU announced that Eric Walker would be shut down for the remainder of the College World Series. Walker had pulled himself from the game early with forearm tightness and was promptly scratched from any lineup on the remainder of LSU’s stay in Omaha. Walker went home to Dallas and received further examination today, where he received the news.
Walker did not pitch in LSU’s two-game sweep over Mississippi State in the Super Regionals, and to keep him sharp LSU head coach Paul Mainieri gave him a simulated game to stay sharp for Omaha. It’s there that Walker developed the nagging injury that would sideline him after less than three innings in Omaha and would develop into this injury.
“First of all, my heart bleeds for Eric as this is not the conclusion to a wonderful freshman year that any of us envisioned,” Mainieri said in a statement. “Eric was a rock all year in our weekend rotation and a vital contributor to our SEC Championship, as well as our appearance in the College World Series.”
“Had Eric not become hurt, there is no telling how the finals of the CWS could have turned out. He’s an outstanding young man with great leadership ability, and I have no doubt he will meet this challenge in his life as he does every other challenge. He will return to our team better than ever for the 2019 season.”
With this news, LSU will officially have to replace all three weekend starters as Alex Lange signed professionally and Jared Poche’ ran out of eligibility. Walker was a rock for LSU down the stretch, winning LSU three championships in as many weeks when he pitched LSU to wins over Mississippi State for an SEC Regular Season co-Championship, Arkansas for a SEC Tournament Championship, and Rice for a Regional Championship. Walker held a 3.48 ERA in 95.2 innings during his freshman campaign, posting a 3.39 K/BB (78/23) while holding opposing batters to a .233 batting average.
Walker was expected to be LSU’s Friday night starter and provide some stability while the next two pitchers in line were broken in and adjusted to a weekend role. Now LSU will have to make due with three pitchers that were not weekend starters, probably Gilbert, Hess, and Peterson if I were to speculate.
This is a big loss for the Tigers, and it severely puts them behind the eight ball for next season. For LSU to be successful, the next man up, whoever it is, will have to step up and produce results.