SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Bundled in his large rain coat and soaked from head to toe, Paul Mainieri glanced out of the LSU dugout toward Notre Dame’s baseball field.
Rain pelted the surface. Temperatures hovered in the mid-50s. The sun hid behind a thick layer of clouds.
Mainieri, a man who battled the Midwestern climate for 12 years as Notre Dame’s coach, shuddered with nostalgia.
“This is a beautiful day. Beautiful day,” he said with a smile. “When you have a perspective of minus-10 with snow blowing sideways and hitting you in your face, 55 degrees feels balmy.”
Rain washed out LSU’s game against Notre Dame on Tuesday night at Frank Eck Stadium. The two teams are scheduled to play two seven-inning games beginning at 2:05 p.m. CDT on Wednesday.
Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn’s pitching plan won’t change because of the doubleheader, the coach said. John Valek III (6-2, 4.36 ERA), an Akron transfer who has been bumped from the weekend rotation, will start Game 1. Riley Smith (0-0, 12.46), a junior-college transfer, will get his first career start in Game 2.
“We’ve got to get through 14 innings instead of 18. We’ll come up with our strategy of how we’re going to use everybody but, at this point, I don’t think it changes anything dramatically,” Mainieri said. “Whether you’re in South Bend, Indiana, or Baton Rouge, Louisiana, you can’t control the weather.
“It rained most of (Tuesday). It looked like it was going to pass through. We had a prediction that it was going to be clear. It’s disappointing.”
The teams delayed Tuesday’s scheduled start time of 5 p.m. CDT by 45 minutes and then by 75 minutes before coaches agreed to postpone the game. Warmer temperatures — the high is 74 — are expected Wednesday. The chance of rain also decreases.
Mainieri spent much of the rain delay Tuesday chatting with former players he coached during his one dozen seasons in South Bend. He led the Irish to the 2002 College World Series and 40-plus wins in all but one year before arriving in Baton Rouge in 2007.
On hand to meet with his old coach was Aaron Heilman, a first-round draft pick in 2001 and nine-year pro. Heilman was scheduled to throw out the first pitch Tuesday. Officials were uncertain if he’d return for Wednesday’s games.
Tuesday’s game was supposed to kick off a run of five games in six days for the Tigers (31-16, 14-10 Southeastern Conference). It’ll be five in five now. LSU will travel directly from South Bend to play Tennessee in a three-game series starting Friday.
It’s all part of a crucial weeklong road trip for a squad fighting to be one of the nation’s top 16 teams that host an NCAA regional. LSU’s RPI is No. 17, and the Tigers are tied with Vanderbilt for sixth place in the overall SEC standings.
Notre Dame (26-20, 10-12 ACC) is clawing to remain on the NCAA tournament bubble.
For the 58-year-old Mainieri, it was a festive scene — mingling with former players, current Notre Dame administrators and staff members with Notre Dame’s legendary football stadium peaking over his shoulder.
He glowed afterward.
“Must have been 20 of those guys who came back here to see me,” he said. “They always have a special place in my heart.”
In the stands, an estimated 200 LSU fans were decked out in purple and gold — more than those sporting Notre Dame gear.
“I knew that we’d probably outnumber the Notre Dame fans,” Mainieri said. “I knew we’d have a pretty good turnout.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.