LSU senior Austin Bain is the definition of a Swiss Army knife.
Bain began his LSU career as a pitcher, earning six starts as a freshman while issuing 56 strikeouts in the 2015 season when he first made the trip to Omaha.
Bain seemed poised for a weekend starter role his sophomore season before a shoulder injury hindered his progression and never really got on track when LSU went back to Omaha his junior season.
Fast forward to the fall of his senior year and Bain was once again seen as an afterthought.
Then LSU coach Paul Mainieri walked into something that has changed the landscape of this season for the Tigers.
Mainieri was running low on viable players in the fall for the team’s intersquad games, so he stuck Bain out at second base to fill out both rosters.
“It’s refreshing to see a kid just having fun,” Mainieri said. “I think he’s done really a tremendous job for us. Going into the year, nobody had any high expectations. Just out of necessity, you throw him in there and he’s hitting, he’s throwing, he’s playing defense.”
Junior infielder Chris Reid has been with Bain at LSU for three seasons but has played against him since they were 8 and 9 years old in the Baton Rouge area.
Reid said Bain was always known for his hitting at a young age, so the discovery wasn’t news to him.
Reid noticed Bain had a loopy swing while working with him in the fall, but the natural talent was there for him to have success.
“He was one of the best hitters in our league at that time,” Reid said. “He’s such an avid golfer that the swing was kind of loopy like a golf swing. He got it clicking, and I’m just really proud of him as a friend and a teammate and just glad he’s on our team.”
Over winter break, Bain was in the throwing program for pitching but also hitting with freshman Daniel Cabrera, who has also done both pitching and hitting this year.
“I wanted to stay in shape because [Mainieri] told me he wanted me to hit in the scrimmages in the spring,” Bain said. “In the fall, I was going up there swinging, but now I’m trying to keep my hands close. I live in the right center gap with most of my hits, but I feel good going opposite field.”
Inconsistent hitting from the Tigers’ squad allowed Bain the opportunity to play as a designated hitter for a short stretch before making the jump into the lineup at first base against Hawaii.
The Dutchtown High School graduate has spent time in the closing role as a pitcher while also finding a new home on the right side of the infield at both first and second base.
Bain has started 26 of 33 games so far this season, is currently third on the team in RBIs with 18 on the season and is hitting .280 on the year.
“After the ULL game, coach asked me how I would feel playing first,” Bain said. “So I went out that day and went through picks and ground balls.”
Junior second baseman Brandt Broussard suffered an injury to his thumb in March, opening a familiar door for Bain.
While signals are all pretty much the same in the infield, Bain said having that experience as pitcher has helped him at second base.
“I know what pitches are coming,” Bain said. “I know how [Alan Dunn] thinks. So I can read the signals and know what might cause a ground ball and how different hitters approach certain pitchers.”
Coming into a game to pitch after being on the field for a whole game leaves Bain’s body tired at times, but his arm is usually ready to go.
“I feel loose, and my blood is flowing,” Bain said. “At the end of the game, I’m focused, so I feel like that has helped me. I’ve seen all the hitters, so I know what to expect.”
Mainieri compared Bain’s senior year to centerfielder Zach Watson’s freshman campaign a season ago. Nobody knew what to expect from Watson until Mainieri saw him shagging balls in the outfield and thought, “This guy could help us.”
“I shudder at the thought of where we would be without Austin Bain,” Mainieri said. “He might be the best athlete in the infield right now, and sometimes you just stumble into things.”
Bain said the only personal goal he would like to fulfill on his swan song season would be to help this team in any way he can, and hopefully this leads to some success.
“I just want to go out of the season with no regrets,” Bain said. “I don’t want to look back and regret anything this season, so I’m going to go out and play as hard as I can.”