Luke Holman Aces First Friday Start For LSU, Headlines College Baseball Roundup


Image credit: Luke Holman | Photo by: Gabi Roller

LSU on Friday night faced its biggest test of the young season. It drew the primetime spot on the opening day of the Astros Foundation Classic in Minute Maid Park for a showdown against No. 14 Texas.

After starting with an eight-game homestand against Central Arkansas, Northern Illinois, Stony Brook and VMI and a tune-up Wednesday at Rice, Friday night marked a step-up for the second-ranked Tigers, both in competition and spotlight.

Behind a strong start from righthander Luke Holman, who moved to the front of the rotation for the first time at LSU, the Tigers aced the test. Holman struck out 12 batters in 5.2 scoreless innings and they went on to defeat the Longhorns, 6-3.  

Righthander Thatcher Hurd drew the first two Friday starts of the year for LSU, but Holman this weekend moved to the front of the rotation and looked like the team’s new ace. While Texas third baseman Peyton Powell went 3-for-3 against Holman, the rest of the Longhorns combined to go 0-for-17 with a walk.

Holman attacked hitters with a low-90s fastball that had rising life and paired it with a devastating slider. He also mixed in a good changeup, pounding the strike zone with all three pitches. He was also pitching on a day’s less rest, as he moved up from Saturday to Friday. That change in schedule contributed to him getting taken out of the game after 5.2 innings and 91 pitches.

Holman improved to 3-0, 0.00 with 30 strikeouts and two walks in 18 innings this season. He has yet to allow a run.

While Friday was Holman’s first start as LSU’s No. 1, he does have top-of-the-rotation experience. He moved into that role early in the season last year at Alabama and went 7-4, 3.67 as he helped the Crimson Tide advance to super regionals. He transferred to LSU in the summer in the wake of Alabama’s tumultuous coaching change.

In Holman, LSU (9-1) appears to have found a true No. 1 starter to take over from Paul Skenes, last year’s Player of the Year and No. 1 draft pick. While Hurd has the stuff for the role, he has not been able to find the consistency needed. Lefthander Gage Jump, who made his first start of the season last Thursday, also has the kind of stuff required to lead the rotation, but was slow to start the season after missing all of last year as he recovered from Tommy John surgery.

Holman, meanwhile, has made the most of his opportunity. The 6-foot-4, 201-pound junior struck out 10 in 5.1 innings his LSU debut on Opening Weekend against Central Arkansas. Last week against NIU, he held the Huskies to two hits in seven scoreless innings. On Friday, he silenced a Texas (7-2) lineup that came into the game averaging 8.9 runs per game.

Lefthander Nate Ackenhausen threw 2.1 innings of relief and looked like he might get a chance to finish the game before running into trouble in the ninth inning. Righthander Fidel Ulloa was called on to get the final three outs and earned his second save of the season, striking out two.

Ulloa appears to have taken over as LSU’s closer. The junior college transfer has thrown 5.1 scoreless innings to start the season, striking out seven and holding opponents to three hits and a walk.

Holman and Ulloa have answered two of the key questions that faced coach Jay Johnson and pitching coach Nate Yeskie coming into the year. With Holman set at the front of the rotation and Ulloa anchoring the bullpen, they can now build the rest of the staff around them. And with the start of SEC play just two weeks away, their emergence comes not a moment too soon.

Ace Watch

Friday night is for the aces. Here we highlight some of the best pitching performances of the day, in addition to Holman.

Noah Edders, RHP, Bradley: Edders threw eight scoreless innings to lead Bradley to a 6-0 victory against Nebraska-Omaha. He struck out 10 batters, walked one and held the Mavericks to three hits. Edders, a redshirt sophomore, improved to 2-1, 3.72 with 19 strikeouts in 19.1 innings.

Caden Favors, LHP, Wichita State: The Shockers defeated Utah Tech, 8-0, as Favors threw a five-hit shutout. He struck out 10 batters and walked one. Favors, a senior, improved to 2-0, 2.11 with 25 strikeouts and four walks in 21.1 innings.

Aidan Major, RHP, West Virginia: Major threw seven scoreless innings to help West Virginia to a 4-0 victory at Western Kentucky. The junior struck out five batters and held the Hilltoppers to two hits and a walk. Major improved to 2-0, 2.50 with 21 strikeouts and five walks in 18 innings.

Jonathan Santucci, LHP, Duke: Santucci struck out 14 batters in six scoreless innings to lead No. 13 Duke to a 6-0 win against Akron and remain undefeated (9-0) this season. He held the Zips to one hit and two walks, throwing 82 pitches. Santucci, a Preseason All-American, this season has yet to allow a run in 17 innings across three starts and has struck out 34 batters.

Hagen Smith, LHP, Arkansas: Fresh off his 17-strikeout game last Friday against Oregon State, Smith struck out 12 batters in six innings in a 5-1 victory against Murray State. He held the Racers to one run on one hit (a leadoff home run) and one walk and retired the final 11 batters he faced. Smith improved to 1-0, 2.77 with 31 strikeouts and four walks in 13 innings.

Trey Yesavage, RHP, ECU: Yesavage threw eight scoreless innings to lead No. 15 ECU to a 7-1 victory against Purdue at the Keith LeClair Classic. He struck out 11 batters and held the Boilermakers to two hits and two walks. Yesavage improved to 2-0, 1.00 with 30 strikeouts and five walks in 18 innings.

Around the Horn

  • Florida continued its dominance of its rivalry against Miami with a 7-3 victory on the road. The Gators improved to 22-8 against the Hurricanes in the last 10 years. No. 5 Florida (7-2) on Friday got big games at the top of its lineup from Cade Kurland (3-for-5, 3 R, HR) and Jac Caglianone (3-for-5, HR), as well as 3.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen from righthander Ryan Slater.
  • No. 6 TCU again needed a late rally, but it improved to 10-0 with a 9-8 victory in 11 innings against Southern California in Arlington, Texas. After blowing a 6-5, ninth-inning lead, the Horned Frogs had to score twice in the bottom of the inning to force extras and then walked it off on a hit from Sam Myers. It was TCU’s third walk-off win of the young season and their fifth one-run victory. The Horned Frogs are off to their best start to a season since 1985, when they began 11-0.
  • No. 20 UC Irvine defeated San Diego, 3-1, to open the Dodger Stadium Classic. The Anteaters got a quality start from veteran ace Nick Pinto, who held the Toreros to one run on four hits and a walk in seven innings, striking out nine. Pinto won the 20th game of his career and surpassed 250 strikeouts, seventh most in program history. UCI improved to 7-0 on the season and is off to its best start since 2011, when the Anteaters won 43 games and advanced to super regionals.
  • In the nightcap of the Frisco Classic, No. 24 Alabama rolled past No. 21 Indiana, 12-0, in seven innings in Frisco, Texas. Righthander Ben Hess struck out 10 batters and held the Hoosiers to one hit in five innings and righthander Coulson Buchanan followed with two hitless innings to finish the run-rule shortened game. The Hoosiers were held to just one hit on the night, their worst offensive output since Michigan State one-hit them in a shutout on April 26, 2015.
  • Georgia Southern upset No. 25 Campbell, 9-4, to open a series in Statesboro. The Eagles (4-5) jumped out to an early lead, scoring six runs in the first four innings, and never looked back. The Camels (6-3) have lost back-to-back road games to start the week, as they lost at No. 22 Coastal Carolina, 9-2, on Tuesday.

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