As LSU baseball looks ahead to the 2021 season, it will do so without two of it's more seasoned veterans.
According to a report from Brody Miller of the Athletic, LSU junior pitcher Eric Walker has entered the NCAA transfer portal. A starter as a freshman in 2017, Walker helped guide the Tigers to the College World Series final, going 8-3 as a starter with a 3.48 ERA.
However, Walker suffered elbow soreness in Omaha, later undergoing Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2018 season.
As he worked his way back in 2019, Walker was up and down, posting a 5-4 record, 5.47 ERA in 18 appearances. Hoping an extra year would give him more time to regain that sensational freshman performance, Walker continued to struggle with command, making five appearances and surrendering three runs in five innings while striking out four batters and hitting or walking seven batters.
Hughes was in and out of the lineup the last three years, having the most success as a freshman in 2018. In 129 appearances for the Tigers, Hughes batted .199 with one homerun and 34 RBI, establishing himself on the defensive side of the ball throughout his career.
With the NCAA's recent decision to grant an extra year of eligibility to spring sport athletes, there were questions about how the expected surplus of players would affect college baseball. Coach Paul Mainieri said two weeks ago that juniors like Walker and Hughes could be hurt if the NCAA doesn't adjust its scholarship limit.
"I think we should treat our juniors the way we're treating our seniors," Mainieri said. "These kids aren't just going to come back to school and you can't increase their scholarship so I think there should be relief for the junior class if they do come back to school and not have to worry about losing their scholarship.
“We have this class of 17 players and you typically think you might lose five. Now we may lose 1-2. You have to over recruit. That's the double-edged sword of being at a school that gets good players," Mainieri said. "If the NCAA could give us some relief in regards to the amount of scholarships and the roster size not just exclusive of the seniors, that'd be ideal. Even if it's just temporary for this year, if the NCAA could give us a couple of extra scholarships for this year and lift the hard cap of 27 per team, then I think everybody could get through this next year."