Immediately after finding out who his LSU baseball team would line up against in Friday’s NCAA tournament opener, coach Paul Mainieri was not about to divulge who his starting pitcher would be.
“I don’t think we owe that to any of our opponents so they can do extra preparation,” Mainieri said. “I have some ideas in mind.”
What Mainieri did say is who is not pitching.
He said he’d “like to hold” ace right-hander Alex Lange “for the second game.” Lange shut out a potent Kentucky lineup over seven innings in his last start to earn a spot on the Southeastern Conference all-tournament team.
Mainieri also said he did not think right-hander Eric Walker would be able to pitch until “Saturday or Sunday” after the freshman logged 7.2 fine innings in the SEC tournament championship game Sunday.
“What we’ll do with the first game, I’m not 100 percent sure yet, but some of the options are fairly obvious,” Mainieri said.
LSU’s remaining starting options are senior left-hander Jared Poché — who threw just 70 pitches in six shutout innings Saturday — sophomore right-hander Caleb Gilbert or freshman right-hander Todd Peterson.
Mainieri said he would announce a starting pitcher Thursday.
LSU’s double play tandem took home a pair of team awards handed out at a banquet before the selection show.
Mainieri presented senior shortstop Kramer Robertson with the Skip Bertman award for best embodying the spirit of the program.
Wally Pontiff Sr. presented senior second baseman Cole Freeman with the Wally Pontiff Jr. Scholar Athlete Award. Freeman earned a degree from LSU in May.
LSU in the rankings
LSU was a consensus top-five team in the preseason rankings, and it has regained that status as it moves into the NCAA tournament for the first time since February 27.
The Tigers rose to No. 2 in the Collegiate Baseball ranking, No. 3 in the D1Baseball, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and USA Today Coaches Poll rankings, and No. 4 in the Baseball America rankings.
LSU is the highest-ranked SEC team in each set of rankings for the first time this season.
SEC in the NCAA tournament
The SEC sent eight teams to the NCAA tournament, with two teams earning national seeds and four hosting a regional.
Florida joined LSU as a national seed in the NCAA tournament, earning the No. 3 seed.
Arkansas and Kentucky will host regional tournaments, though both ultimately fell short of hosting throughout the tournament. ESPN analyst Kyle Peterson said during the selection show Kentucky and Stanford were a coin-flip for the No. 8 seed.
Also cracking the field of 64 were Auburn, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M.
South Carolina and Ole Miss, both of whom had better RPIs than Auburn and Texas A&M, were left out of the field after posting losing records in conference play.