Throw Jared Poché or don’t throw Jared Poché?
That is the question.
Rice beat LSU 10-6 on Monday night at Alex Box Stadium, pushing the Tigers to a decisive second game for all of the NCAA Baton Rouge regional marbles. The Tigers and the Owls are scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday in a winner-take-all matinee.
So, back to that question: Does coach Paul Mainieri throw Poché? The grizzled junior got the win Friday night in a regional-opening win over Utah Valley, tossing 92 pitches during a six-inning outing.
The coach was non-committal when asked about Poché twice in Monday’s post-game news conference, saying the pitcher is “possibly” an option.
“We’ll see, see how he feels tomorrow,” Mainieri said.
The Tigers have plenty of other pitchers remaining. In fact, only Alex Lange and, arguably, Poché (8-4, 3.47) appear to be unavailable for Tuesday’s tilt. None of them, though, match the resume of Poché, a Lutcher native who became the first LSU pitcher on Friday to win at least eight games in three consecutive seasons.
Mainieri was faced with a similar situation two years ago in a regional the Tigers lost at home to Houston. The Cougars pushed the Tigers to a decisive winner-take-all title clash, and the coach decided against bringing back Poché on two days of rest.
A year later, Mainieri said Poché, not a power pitcher, could have returned for that Monday night duel against Houston. The Cougars racked up 12 hits against six LSU pitchers – many of them relievers – in a 12-2 victory, ending LSU’s season in miserable fashion.
Mainieri avoids placing stress on a pitcher’s arm and often preaches about the importance of their futures, but he’s, at times, thrown Poché on four days of rest, starting him on a Saturday and then again on a Thursday.
He’s not the only guy available, though.
In fact, Parker Bugg, one of the Tigers’ best relievers, has not pitched this weekend. Jake Latz and Russell Reynolds threw just one inning on Friday night. Neither threw more than 17 pitches. Closer Hunter Newman tossed 12 pitches in an inning of work Sunday night.
On Monday night, none of LSU’s seven pitchers – including starter Caleb Gilbert – threw more than 34 pitches. Austin Bain may be out. A 95 mph hit struck him between the eyes, leaving a red mark clearly visible on the TV broadcast. He did not pitch again after Rice right fielder Charlie Warren’s scary shot smacked him in the eighth inning.
Gilbert, a true freshman, threw just 30 pitches in a two-inning, three-run outing Monday.
The question begs: pitch Poché or not?
The Tigers’ season is on the line and so is history. LSU has never lost two home regionals in a span of three years, and they’ve lost just four times in 24 home regionals. Rice won Baton Rouge regionals in 1995 and 2005 and Cal State Fullerton won the 1992 Baton Rouge regional.
“We’ll have some pitching that I believe has a good chance of shutting them down,” Mainieri said.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.