College sports programs evolve during their offseason, with attrition often part of the process. LSU baseball is no different and on Wednesday, a prominent part of a ballyhooed 2014 recruiting class exited the flock.
Sophomore pitcher Jake Godfrey is headed to the junior-college level, after a roller-coaster freshman season. He told the coaches of his decision Wednesday and confirmed his plans to transfer on Thursday.
The big right-hander from New Lenox, Ill., struggled at times during fall practice when the Tigers’ coaches focuses were on establishing third and fourth starters to go with Alex Lange and Jared Poche.
Tigers coach Paul Mainieri did not return a phone message Wednesday.
In a statement released by LSU, Mainieri said, “Jake has expressed to me his desire to transfer, and my understanding is that he would like to enroll and pitch at a junior college. We wish him the best as he continues his baseball career.”
Reached by text message, Godfrey confirmed that it was his decision to seek the transfer.
“Not sure where and I just wanted to put my future in my own hands,” Godfrey said via text. “As you know I had been committed to Notre Dame for a long time and once I could no longer go there, I had to make kind of a (hasty) decision to come to LSU and I loved my teammates and the atmosphere here; there really is no better. Ultimately I don’t believe I had the same relationship as some of the other guys that had been recruited. I’m not running from competition. I believe I made huge strides this fall and I’m excited to go play ball.”
Which will be somewhere new.
Godfrey began his freshman season as the Tigers’ No. 3 starter behind Poche and Lange and wound up making nine starts on the first weekends of the season with a 7-1 record. He struck out 39 batters in 54.2 innings but also walked 33, which was a big reason why his ERA swelled to 4.61.
Besides control issues, Godfrey also grappled with his emotions at times, something that Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn both tried to remedy as the season went on.
In summer ball, Godfrey made strides and he had his moments in the fall. But junior-college transfer Riley Smith and freshman Caleb Gilbert took the lead in the battle for the other two starting jobs – especially once Jake Latz’s fall ended.
With Godfrey leaving, two of the six pitchers who arrived on campus in 2014 are gone and Latz has yet to throw a pitch. Mac Marshall was the most highly touted of that group and he exited last fall.
Conversely, Lange blossomed as a freshman and wound up 12-0 with 131 strikeouts and a 1.97 ERA to earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors.
Now that crew of pitchers is down to three healthy arms: Lange, Doug Norman and Austin Bain, who replaced Godfrey in the rotation for most of the rest of the regular season.
But the infusion of talent in the recent class increased the competition for roles.
Smith and Gilbert led the way, but freshman Cole McKay is regarded as a budding star in the same mold as Lange and former pitchers Aaron Nola and Kevin Gausman. And senior transfer John Valek is also a pitcher with starting experience from three seasons at Akron.
That competition lost one pitcher on Wednesday.
Randy Rosetta can be reached at email@example.com or (225) 610.5507