LSU will use Jared Poché on short rest Thursday to begin Vanderbilt series _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU left-hander Jared Poche pitches against Cincinnati on Feb. 19 at Alex Box Stadium. Poche will start Thursday's series opener at Ole Miss.

Poché gets the ball when LSU opens its series against No. 2 Vanderbilt on Thursday at Alex Box Stadium, five days after throwing 105 pitches in 6.1 innings of one-run baseball in an 8-6 win against Auburn.

The junior left-hander faced a similar situation at Texas A&M two weeks ago, where he returned on short rest and fired five innings of five-hit ball in a 6-1 loss March 24.

Alex Lange, whom Paul Mainieri has attempted to pitch first in each of his team’s three Southeastern Conference series, will start Friday.

John Valek III will start Saturday in the series finale.

Lange was scheduled to start the team’s conference opener against Alabama and the series opener against Auburn — both of which were rained out, forcing Mainieri to turn to Poché on short rest the following week.

“Simple reason being because of the rest time again, just like it was before going to Texas A&M,” Mainieri said of his decision to start Poché.

“Poché’s style of pitching versus Lange’s style of pitching — I just feel Lange needs the extra day of rest. It’s not really an extra day; it’s one day short of what it normally has.”

‘Major League arms’ in the Box

As has become tradition, Vanderbilt comes to Alex Box Stadium with plenty of power arms.

How does a resurging LSU lineup combat it?

“Hunt the fastball,” Kramer Robertson said. “I think that’s really the only thing you can do against a guy throwing that hard. Don’t get any bigger, try to muscle up against a guy throwing that hard. That’s not a recipe for success. You have to be short, quick to it and get the fastball down in the zone.”

The Commodores will throw upper-90s right-hander Jordan Sheffield on Thursday opposite Poché, Kyle Wright on Friday and Hayden Stone on Saturday.

Sheffield and Wright, who have combined to strike out 100 batters in their combined 77.1 innings, get an LSU bunch that has fanned only 118 times this season — the fewest in the SEC by 50.

As a staff, Vanderbilt has the second-lowest ERA (2.77) and WHIP (1.15) in the SEC and leads the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“Players come to LSU because someday they want to play in the major leagues,” Mainieri said. “These are the caliber of arms you face in the major leagues. If they really aspire to play at that level, then they have to enjoy and embrace the challenge of facing this caliber of pitcher.”

Latz could throw next week

After coming out of a simulated game unscathed Wednesday, Jake Latz could make his LSU debut April 13 against Grambling at Alex Box Stadium if he feels pain-free through the weekend.

Mainieri said he was “so excited” by Latz’s progress, which accelerated when he threw to live hitters for the first time since his November surgery. If he were to throw against Grambling, Latz would only last one or two innings, Mainieri said.