A day after the LSU baseball team’s first Southeastern Conference sweep of the season, coach Paul Mainieri had distressing news about two injured players he once hoped would play integral roles in the Tigers’ stretch run.
Mainieri on Monday said he’s “concerned” that freshman O’Neal Lochridge (stress fracture in his back), who locked down the third base job two weeks into the season, won’t be able to return this season. Lochridge practiced fully last Monday and took batting practice the next day — both firsts for the St. Thomas More product since his injury. His back responded unfavorably, though, and Lochridge remains out this week, Mainieri said.
“We have to go with how he feels,” Mainieri said. “We tried to push it last week. He was feeling great, went through a full practice and hit in batting practice the next day. It’s just when he hits that he feels it. We have to do what’s right for the boy. It’s not as bad as it once was, but still preventing him from being able to play.”
Lochridge was diagnosed with the injury days before LSU’s conference opener against Alabama. Freshman Chris Reid has played third for the majority of Lochridge’s absence, filling in admirably with a .299 batting average and just two errors. Reid had three hits in LSU’s 15-2 win against Missouri on Sunday.
TBD on Latz
Mainieri didn’t have a concrete update on left-hander Jake Latz, who made his college debut last week but felt pain in his surgically mended left elbow the next day.
“It’s just the most baffling thing I’ve ever dealt with as a coach, honestly,” Mainieri said. “We have to go with how he’s feeling. After he pitched, the next day, it didn’t feel terrible, but he felt it on that same spot. So we can’t push it. We have to let him tell us what he’s feeling.”
Latz threw 36 pitches and recorded four outs in his first start, a 7-0 loss to McNeese State. He hovered around 90 mph in his first inning before dipping to 88 in his second.
He threw 10 scoreless innings during fall practice before feeling pain in the 11th, prompting three doctor visits that all determined the 2014 Illinois Player of the Year needed surgery on the elbow that forced him to redshirt last season. Latz was the third-highest drafted high school player in the 2014 MLB draft to not sign professionally.
“He’s not ready to pitch. He can’t pitch in a game right now, so we’re just going to have to wait and see,” Mainieri said. “I wish I could tell you a good answer, but I don’t.”
Furniss, ’96 team to be lauded
LSU will retire Eddy Furniss’ jersey before Friday night’s series opener against Mississippi State. On Saturday, the Tigers will honor Furniss and the rest of his teammates from LSU’s 1996 national championship team in a 20-year reunion.
Furniss is the third person in LSU baseball history to have his jersey retired, joining coach Skip Bertman and pitcher Ben McDonald.
“I’ve been pushing for Eddy Furniss’ jersey to be retired, I think, from the day I walked on this campus, and it’s now been done and I think it’s very appropriate,” Mainieri said. “Quite frankly, I think it’s long overdue. When you think of the epitome of a student-athlete, I don’t think anyone could use a better example than Eddy Furniss. … He’s almost too good to be true.”
The 1996 squad, LSU’s third title team, is most fondly remembered for its 9-8 win against Miami in the national championship game on Warren Morris’ game-winning home run.
“A week doesn’t go by without someone bringing up that game to me,” Morris said in a university news release. “They share where they were, what they were doing and how much they loved seeing us win. I’m still amazed how people remember so many details about what was going on and who they were with as they watched us play our final game. It was an incredible season and an incredible team.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome.