OMAHA, Neb. — Notes on my baseball scorebook while wondering how much longer I have to live here before I can vote in the next election ...
LSU coach Paul Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn set themselves up for some Grade A second-guessing even before the College World Series finals began, deciding to tab seldom-used senior Russell Reynolds as their starting pitcher for Game 1 against Florida.
Reynolds had a 1-1 record, an 8.59 ERA and threw just 14.2 innings entering the contest, including a scoreless inning last Monday in a 13-1 loss to Oregon State (don’t blame him). To borrow a line from the great writer/sportscaster Dick Schaap, compared to Florida starter Brady Singer (8-5, 3.18 ERA), the Alamo looked sturdier.
There were some other options for Mainieri and Dunn, though not many. Not if they wanted to get the maximum rest possible for senior left-hander Jared Poché (who will start Game 2 on Tuesday) and junior right-hander Alex Lange (set to start Game 3 on Wednesday if the game is necessary).
Eric Walker was already scratched because of his mysterious arm ailment that flared up last Monday when he started against Oregon State. Also take Caleb Gilbert off the board after his 7.1 brilliant innings of one-run, two-hit pitching in Saturday’s 6-1 LSU victory over the Beavers.
Freshman Todd Peterson (3-1, 4.19) is also apparently a no go because of some arm issues. They could have maybe gone with Matthew Beck (1-0, 3.65 ERA) or Nick Bush (1-1, 3.92), but the latter hasn’t started a game this season either.
The big question, of course, was why not start Poché on four days rest in Game 1? For LSU, it’s the case of being forced into a calculated risk. Pitching Poché didn’t guarantee victory against the talented Singer.
A Game 1 loss under that scenario would have put the Tigers in a 0-1 hole with the prospect of going "Johnny Wholestaff" in Game 2 with Poché already spent. That’s something that Florida may have to do, because one of its best starting pitchers, Alex Faedo, started Saturday against TCU and may not be available in the finals, other than in relief.
Lange on three days' rest? No question he would have taken the ball and given it his best. But Mainieri said Lange has never started in such a quick turnaround. Now LSU has a great backup plan if the series goes the distance.
Was there risk to LSU’s plan? Absolutely. But is it really gambling when you have to make a choice and no other good alternatives are available?
… I’m constantly amazed that more players don’t get clocked with a ball during batting practice than actually do. But it almost happened before Monday’s game, as Zach Watson launched a batting-practice home run into the LSU bullpen behind the left-field fence at TD Ameritrade Park.
Lange was down there, making some warmup throws under Dunn's watchful eye. There were a couple of shouts of “Heads up!” from Lange's teammates, and the ball missed him by about 2 feet.
… A reader emailed me earlier this week with the grassy-knoll-like theory that Oregon State leadoff hitter Steven Kwan’s controversial ball, which appeared to hit the left-field foul line just below the foul pole against LSU on Friday, actually ticked off some sort of wire first, then kicked back and to the right. Back and to the right.
Having little else to do a couple of hours before the game, and the idea of finding something else to eat holding no appeal for me, I sauntered down to the left-field corner to see for myself.
I’m sorry to inform my dear reader that no such wire exists. The foul poles stand on their own devices against the Nebraska sun, snow and occasional tornado. The wire people might see on TV is the cable holding up the net behind home plate, but that is attached to the stadium high up on the second level.
… We’re focusing a lot here on the left-field side of TD Ameritrade Park, so while we’re doing it, you may have noticed the bridge rising well beyond the stadium in that direction. It’s a pedestrians-only structure across the Missouri River called the Bob Kerrey Bridge. I walked over it and back Sunday night, taking time, like most folks do, to stand in the middle with one foot in Iowa and one foot in Nebraska.
After the CWS leaves town, the entertainment options in Omaha dwindle a tad.