Alex Lange can’t help but smile when thinking about it.
He’s a freshman and could be pitching in the top game of an NCAA regional at night in a sold-out ballpark against one of LSU’s fiercest rivals.
“That would be awesome,” the right-hander said Monday.
Lange is scheduled to start on the mound in the second game of the Baton Rouge regional Saturday against what could be Tulane, but the real question: Who will start the regional opener?
The Tigers were announced as the No. 2 NCAA national seed Monday, and they’ll host a four-team, double-elimination regional starting Friday that includes No. 2 seed UNC-Wilmington, the No. 3 seed Green Wave and No. 4 seed Lehigh.
As of Monday afternoon, LSU coach Paul Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn had not determined a pitching plan for the regional — aside from Lange’s start in Game 2, which is contingent on the Tigers (48-10) beating Lehigh (25-29) in a 3 p.m. opener Friday. Tulane (34-23) and UNC-Wilmington (39-16) meet at 7 p.m. Friday.
Mainieri said while at the Southeastern Conference tournament last week that he’d like to “pitch off” in the regional opener, saving Lange (10-0, 1.94 ERA) for Saturday and Jared Poché (7-1, 3.35), presumably, for Sunday’s regional championship game.
He wouldn’t budge Monday afternoon when asked about his pitching plan.
“I know you’re going to try to reel me into this. I’m just not going to bite,” a smiling Mainieri said when asked a second time about the starter for the opener.
Who are the options?
LSU has struggled this season to find a consistent No. 3 starting pitcher. Austin Bain replaced Jake Godfrey halfway through the season as the Tigers’ third guy, but Bain lasted just 1.2 innings at the SEC tournament — his second start of less than two innings in the past three weeks.
Russell Reynolds and Doug Norman have started games this season and could be options as well. Poché said he expects to pitch Friday, he’s not sure.
“I’m guessing Friday, but who knows?” said Poché, who has been LSU’s Game 1 starter all season. “Don’t really know much about our opponents.”
Alleva’s alma mater
LSU and Lehigh have at least one connection: Tigers Athletic Director Joe Alleva graduated from the school.
Alleva received his bachelor’s degree in 1975 from Lehigh, a private school with an enrollment of about 7,000 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He was the quarterback of the football team and team captain in 1974.
Alleva also played on the Lehigh baseball team. He was a graduate assistant football coach and earned an MBA in 1976.
“I hope he doesn’t have split loyalties here. I’ll have to talk to him about that,” a smiling Mainieri said. “Of course I say that tongue in cheek. I’m sure he’s a very proud Lehigh graduate. Just like we all have to do at some point in our careers, we have to put our past on the shelf and be totally loyal to who you’re employed by. I’m sure Joe Alleva will find a way to deal with his emotions and hope for the LSU Tigers to win on Friday.”
Second baseman Kramer Robertson won’t be available for the NCAA regional this weekend as he continues to recover from an elbow injury that has now sidelined him for more than a month.
Robertson began throwing fully last week for the first time since injuring the elbow during infield drills before the game against Texas A&M on April 23.
LSU’s 27-man roster for the regional will not change from the one Mainieri took to the SEC tournament. It does not include pitchers Kyle Bouman, Ryan May, Brady Domangue, Jake Latz and Robertson or freshman Greg Deichmann.
It’s like 2003 all over again.
Tulane and UNC-Wilmington competed in the Baton Rouge regional in 2003. LSU beat Tulane 13-5 in the winner’s bracket final of that regional and then had to beat UNC-Wilmington in the regional championship the next day. The Tigers beat the Seahawks 9-8 in 11 innings to win the regional.
Bregman, Sciambra take awards
Shortstop Alex Bregman won the Skip Bertman Award as LSU’s best overall player, and senior designated hitter Chris Sciambra won the Wally Pontiff Jr. Award as the Tigers’ best student-athlete.
LSU distributes just those two team awards after each season.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.