Jared Poché accepted the plaque and attempted to speak.
“We’re not going to let him,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri laughed. “You wouldn’t be able to understand him.”
The mere fact that Poché stood in front of his teammates and coaches with the honor was surprising enough. Before Monday morning’s NCAA tournament selection show, the junior left-hander received the Wally Pontiff Jr. Scholar Athlete award, given to the LSU baseball player who most epitomizes a “student-athlete.”
“I didn’t really think my grades were ever going to be good enough,” Poché quipped in his thick, Lutcher twang. “But I had a pretty good semester academically, and with all the history of Wally Pontiff Jr. and Wally Pontiff Sr. carrying on that legacy, (it’s) very honoring.”
Pontiff Sr. presented the award named after his late son, who died in his sleep in July 2002 of an undiagnosed heart abnormality. The younger Pontiff was a three-year letterman at LSU and part of the Tigers’ 2000 national championship team.
The award is one of two presented annually by the program. Outfielder Jake Fraley accepted the Skip Bertman Award, given annually to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of LSU baseball. Skip Bertman, the Tigers’ five-time national championship coach, presented the award.
“It’s an absolute honor and a blessing,” Fraley said. “The Lord’s blessed me with a lot, allowed me to be around the people I’ve been around for three years here as well as being allowed to talk to Coach Bertman a lot. It’s an honor and blessing to have an award presented by him.”
All games of the Baton Rouge regional will be broadcast online only via ESPN3, which is accessible on WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app. Lyn Rollins and former Tigers pitcher and No. 1 draft pick Ben McDonald will be on the call for all games.
LSU plays No. 4 seed Utah Valley at 2 p.m. Friday before No. 2 seed Rice and No. 3 seed Southeastern Louisiana play at 7 p.m.
Tickets are on sale to LSU season-ticket holders. Leftover tickets will be available to the general public beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Mainieri said he had not decided his pitching rotation for the regional. ... Utah Valley played two LSU common opponents — Sacramento State and Ball State — going 3-2. ... Selection committee chair Joel Erdmann listed Southeastern Louisiana as one of the “last three in” during an interview following the selection show.