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2022 Baseball Preview: Starting Pitching

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The make or break unit for the LSU baseball team

At the time of this writing the 2022 LSU baseball season is roughly 48 hours away from beginning and I still don’t know what the weekend rotation is going to look like.

Had you asked me who takes the mound Friday night against Maine I would’ve told you it’s undoubtedly Devin Fontenot. Turns out that won’t be the case—at least for this opening weekend—as Jay Johnson named sophomore righty Blake Money the starter for Friday night.

What I’m saying is there’s an awful lot of questions surrounding the Tiger pitching staff but one thing is for certain: the floor for LSU is an NCAA Tournament team and a likely regional host just off the firepower in the batting lineup. But sooner or later the bats will go cold and the pitching staff will need to carry them for a weekend or two. If LSU can get consistently good to great performances from the staff then I think you’re looking at a Top-8 team that very likely will be off to Omaha.

Starters

Blake Money: 1-2 (15 games, two starts), 8.68 ERA (lol), 28 Ks/10 BBs in 28 IP

Money has been a really good story coming out of fall ball and spring practices. Money’s dropped 37 pounds and apparently it’s really improved his stuff. His fastball’s got some more pop and his off-speed pitches are really coming into their own including a blossoming curveball that can induce some swing and misses.

Ma’Khail Hilliard: 6-0 (21 games, eight starts), 4.31 ERA, 53 Ks/12 BBs in 54.1 IP

Ma’Khail Hilliard is back for a fifth season on campus and will take the mound on Saturday. Hilliard basically saved LSU’s season last year when he took over the Sunday job in May throwing 24 13 innings and posting a 2.59 ERA over that stretch. He’s shown he can be a better than average Saturday guy or a flat out awesome Sunday starter, something most teams don’t have. Hilliard can be the difference in winning or losing a key SEC series.

Speaking of Sunday, the game three starter for the Maine series is TBD but I would think it’s down to one of three choices: fifth year senior Devin Fontenot, sophomore lefty Javen Coleman or incoming freshman Cale Lansville.

Devin Fontenot: 4-2 (26 games, five saves), 2.86 ERA, 40 Ks/21 BBs in 34.2 IP

It looks like Fontenot might be attempting the Zack Hess routine where he gives starting games a try instead of closing them. Hess only got 10 starts before returning back to the closer role, will Fontenot have better luck or will history repeat itself? But no matter what role he eventually settles in at, you know you’ll always be getting Fontenot’s best.

Javen Coleman: 3-2 (14 games, two starts) 5.79 ERA, 43 Ks/18 BBs in 32.2 IP

Coleman probably deserves a shot at starting to get a left-handed arm in the rotation. Coleman grew up before our eyes in the Oregon Regional when he threw six innings of relief work against the Ducks in which he only allowed three hits and one run. Has he taken that next step in his development? Time will tell.

Lansville is the big unknown as he’s a true freshman. Maybe he’s 2015 Alex Lange or 2012 Aaron Nola. Or maybe he’s not. But he comes to LSU as the Tigers highest rated signee possessing a low to mid 90s fastball, a slider, and a curveball that can all be thrown for strikes and developing a changeup for good measure.