Paul Mainieri’s prayers were answered.
After a rain-soaked five-day regional that dragged into Tuesday night, LSU’s super regional against Coastal Carolina will begin Saturday. The draw, obviously, gives another day of rest to left-hander Jared Poché, who threw 161 pitches in a five-day span to get the win Friday against Utah Valley and Tuesday in the championship game against Rice.
It also alleviates one of Mainieri’s greatest postseason concerns — his players’ focus during the MLB draft.
The draft begins Thursday and ends Saturday, befire the Tigers open the super regional at 8 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium.
“Even on the third day, when it’s rounds 11 through 40, at least the draft will be over before we actually play the game,” Mainieri said. “It might be a mild distraction to at least a few guys, but at least it’ll be over. My worry was we were going to be playing at 2 in the afternoon Friday, right in the middle of rounds 3 through 10, where so many of our guys would perhaps be picked.”
Mainieri has long voiced his displeasure with the draft falling during some of the biggest weeks of the college baseball season. Players often find out they’ve been drafted before or during games, but Mainieri said he hopes this setup can give the 15 draft eligible underclassmen time to process such a life-changing event.
“At least they’ll know,” Mainieri said. “Emotionally, they’ll be able to come to grips with it, give them 24 hours, then let’s get ready to go play a ballgame and try to get to Omaha.”
Papierski now a ‘threat’
Before the Baton Rouge regional, Mike Papierski hadn’t hit righty-on-righty since he was 11 years old.
Thrust back into the starting role he’d lost in the middle of Southeastern Conference play, Papierski batted exclusively right-handed in 14 regional at-bats, smoking a solo home run and double while catching all four games.
Papierski’s offensive renaissance began in the Southeastern Conference tournament, fisting a two-run single in the Tigers’ 6-2 win against Mississippi State on May 26, sending the Tigers to the semifinals.
Before that, Papierski had not recorded a hit since April 22. He had not driven in a run since April 24.
“I thought he caught magnificently the whole week,” Mainieri said. “A couple of times (hitting only right-handed) has looked a little Greek to him ... but overall he’s done a really good job. He’s a threat now. I’ve seen him hit balls like that in batting practice frequently, so I always knew he had it in him.”
Romero’s back stiffens
Though he tweaked his back while roping a foul ball in Monday’s 10-6 loss to Rice, Jordan Romero was available to play in Tuesday’s 5-2 regional championship win against the Owls.
Romero got the start at designated hitter in Monday’s game — his only start of the regional — going 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored.
“We were keeping his back warm during the game in case we needed him as a pinch hitter late,” Mainieri said Wednesday. “He just tweaked it and it started to stiffen up. I almost had to pull him out of the game but he gutted it out and just kept playing.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome.