Here's what the LSU pitching rotation should be in SEC Tournament - Marceaux, Hellmers, Hilliard

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Through serendipity, LSU pitching can approach the SEC Tournament as if it is a weekend league series.

The No. 8 seed Tigers (34-21, 13-17 SEC) play No. 9 seed Georgia (30-23, 13-17) Tuesday (4:30 p.m., SEC Network) in a an elimination game at Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama. The Tigers likely need a win or two to secure a bid to an NCAA Regional.

SEC BASEBALL TOURNAMENT:2021 bracket, schedule, game times and TV info

Here is what the Tigers' pitching rotation should be:

Tuesday - Landon Marceaux

What looked like bad news in a 2-1 loss at Texas A&M Thursday when coach Paul Mainieri pulled ace Landon Marceaux has accidentally become good news. Marceaux (6-4, 2.04 ERA), a junior right-hander who is eighth in the SEC with 98 strikeouts, threw only 60 pitches in four innings, allowing one run and three hits with three walks.

LSU BASEBALL:LSU baseball will reach NCAA postseason if it stays hot in SEC Tournament, or maybe just warm | Guilbeau

LSU BASEBALL:How to watch ESPN's LSU baseball documentary 'Hold the Rope' about coach Skip Bertman Monday night

Marceaux is not injured. He was just fatigued. That happens this time of year. Marceaux has been LSU's workhorse all season as he is No. 2 in the SEC in innings pitched with 83. Mainieri has often rested his most used weekend starters late in regular seasons to get them ready for the postseason when his team is having a better year.

He didn't have that luxury this season as the Tigers only qualified for the 12-team SEC Tournament on Friday with a win.

"His arm's fine," Mainieri said after the game. "His whole body was very fatigued. I was very concerned about him injuring his arm because he was laboring so much."

That's how injuries often happen.

Marceaux, who was named a second team All-SEC player on Monday along with Tre Morgan and Dylan Crews, was not getting good offense anyway as LSU mustered two hits all game Thursday. So had he gutted out with 90 or more pitches, the Tigers still would have lost, 2-1. And if he did not hurt his arm, he would not be available until Thursday - when LSU may not still be around. 

With Mainieri pulling him, Marceaux should be rested and reenergized Tuesday.

"Everything's fine. I'm healthy," he said after the game. "Nothing hurts. Just fatigue."

Marceaux was asked if Mainieri took him out to save him for Tuesday's game, which at the time LSU needed to win more than it does now.

"No, I don't think so," Marceaux said. "I came into today and didn't feel really strong."

He should be strong Tuesday.

Late Monday, Mainieri named Marceaux his starter for Tuesday.

LSU junior starting pitcher Landon Marceaux was pulled from the Tigers' game at Texas A&M Thursday because of fatigue after just 60 pitches. He should be rejuvenated should he start against Georgia on Tuesday in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama.

LSU ATHLETICS:Forgotten History: LSU hired SEC's first Black coordinator in 1990, Alabama pioneer John Mitchell

LSU ATHLETICS:5 things I think about Auburn football landing LSU transfer TJ Finley | Toppmeyer

Wednesday - Will Hellmers

If LSU beats Georgia, it plays No. 1 seed Arkansas (42-10, 22-8) Wednesday (4:30 p.m., SEC Network) with the tournament returning to double elimination.

Junior right-hander AJ Labas (3-2, 5.52 ERA) has been in the SEC rotation all season, but he continues to slump. He was able to get just one out in the second inning Friday at Texas A&M before being pulled as he allowed six hits and six runs.

Over his last five starts, Labas is 1-2 with a 10.13 ERA with 43 hits and 27 runs allowed in 24 innings. He gave up 10 hits and nine runs in a 17-10 loss to Arkansas on May 1.

Time for a change. LSU should start freshman right-hander Will Hellmers (6-2, 3.41 ERA). His main action has been in mid-week games, but he did hold Ole Miss to two hits and one run in three innings of relief on April 24 on the road. Over his last six games, he has 2.77 ERA with four runs and 12 hits allowed in 13 innings.

If Hellmers doesn't last, pitching coach Alan Dunn could go to an improving bullpen.

LSU BASEBALL:What to watch for when Skip Bertman documentary 'Hold the Rope' premieres Monday

Thursday - Ma'Khail Hilliard

LSU's hottest pitcher is senior Ma'Khail Hilliard (6-0, 4.06 ERA). He is 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA in 24 innings since moving into the weekend rotation this month with 18 strikeouts and four walks. Opponents are hitting .186 against him over that span. 

Hilliard would be the man to pitch Wednesday against Arkansas, which is No. 1 in the USA TODAY poll. But that would be on just three days rest after throwing 80 pitches in seven innings to beat Texas A&M Saturday, 8-2, allowing two runs on six hits.