Thanks to an obscure NCAA Bylaw known as 22.214.171.124.7.1, Jared Foster is still eligible to turn 6-4-3 double plays for the LSU baseball team.
Declared ineligible a week ago, Foster was reinstated to the team Tuesday after the school discovered he is still eligible by NCAA standards to compete — even though a grade in one of his courses fell short of counting toward his Sports Administration major.
Wearing a sharp blue dress shirt and tie topped by a broad smile, Foster left Alex Box Stadium on Wednesday afternoon with his teammates, bound for No. 1-ranked LSU’s regular-season-ending series at South Carolina.
“It’s an answered prayer,” Foster said.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said the Lake Charles senior will return to his spot in the starting lineup. He’s started 40 games for the Tigers, 31 at second base.
“I’m glad we found out and were able to go forward,” Foster said.
Perhaps Foster’s prayers should include a special mention for former LSU baseball academic advisor Becca Hubbard.
Hubbard, who now works in LSU’s Office of Enrollment Management on the academic side of the campus, was attending a conference at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis this week and discussed Foster’s case with a top NCAA eligibility official.
She called Mainieri on Tuesday afternoon as the Tigers were on their way to New Orleans for a game at UNO to tell him about Bylaw 126.96.36.199.7.1. It allows senior student-athletes to maintain their eligibility if they pass at least six hours of classes that apply to any major the school offers.
Initially, Foster was ruled ineligible because one of his grades (he said it was in a facilities management class) wasn’t high enough to count toward his major.
“Once we found out that rule, it was very clear he shouldn’t have been ineligible to begin with,” Mainieri said.
Foster was sitting at home Tuesday when Mainieri called to say he is back on the team.
“I sat down for a second and took a deep breath,” said Foster, who nonetheless admonished himself for not keeping his academic house in order.
“It’s a roller coaster of emotions,” he said. “You go from one second thinking I let all my teammates down, the fans, the university, and ultimately I kind of did.”
Senior outfielder/designated hitter Chris Sciambra said Foster was welcomed back by his teammates.
“We all missed him,” Sciambra said. “Everybody loves the guy. To have him back is pretty awesome.”
Foster is hitting .275 with eight home runs (one off the team lead) and 29 RBIs.
“He’s easily the most athletic guy on the team,” Sciambra said. “He can play second base, left field. He’s definitely an asset for us.”
Lange will start Saturday
With Foster back at second, Mainieri decided to shuffle his pitching rotation.
Austin Bain (1-2, 2.98 ERA) will start Friday in the second game of the series, and freshman Alex Lange (9-0, 2.13) gets pushed back to a Saturday start.
Mainieri said the decision to move Lange back a day was influenced by the fact he missed a start last month with elbow tightness.
“The only reason is to give Lange six days rest between starts,” Mainieri said. “With the history of what he’s gone through, having a little bit of a fatigued arm, he can stay on the same routine he normally does.
“Austin Bain only threw about 70 pitches Sunday. He can bounce back more readily than Lange can.”
Jared Poche (7-1, 2.87) is scheduled to start Thursday’s 6 p.m. game at South Carolina. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Mainieri said at this point he plans to start Lange on Saturday even if LSU has already clinched the SEC regular-season championship by then.
The Tigers’ magic number to clinch the title is 2. LSU (44-8, 19-7 SEC) leads Vanderbilt by 1½ games in the overall standings and Texas A&M by two.
LSU was again tabbed as the No. 1 national seed in NCAA tournament projections released Wednesday by D1Baseball.com.
The site also lists South Carolina (31-22, 12-15 SEC) as one of the first five teams currently out of the field of 64, adding urgency to the Gamecocks’ efforts against the Tigers.
LSU’s NCAA RPI held at No. 5 after Tuesday’s 9-1 win at UNO. South Carolina is at No. 56.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.