Jared Poché knew since early this week what LSU coach Paul Mainieri revealed to the rest of the world Thursday morning: Poché will be the first to throw a pitch in the Baton Rouge regional.
Mainieri said he made the decision to start Poché for a variety of reasons, among them is making sure the best-case scenario doesn’t turn into a problem for LSU.
Mainieri proposed a hypothetical situation in which he started someone else Friday and LSU swept through the regional with Alex Lange pitching Saturday and Poché pitching in the championship game.
In that scenario, Mainieri said, freshman right-hander Eric Walker “would not have an opportunity to pitch. With as well as he is pitching, I want to keep him going.”
Mainieri extended the hypothetical scenario further, looking at the possibility of LSU sweeping a super regional.
“Now you go into Omaha and he’s not pitching the first game there,” Mainieri said. “By the time you’re asking him to pitch hasn’t been on the mound in three weeks.”
Of course, Mainieri isn’t assuming this is going to be the case. But he feels Poché starting Friday’s game doesn’t necessarily rule him out for the remainder of the weekend if LSU does falter and needs him later in the weekend.
“Just because we’re starting Jared Poché (Friday) doesn’t mean we’re going to burn him,” Mainieri said. “If the game develops in a way that is favorable to us, then we can always pull Jared and have him for later on in the series."
Mainieri recalled last season’s NCAA tournament, when Poché came out of the bullpen for the second time in his career and dominated Rice, retiring all but one of the 19 batters he faced.
“He proved last year that he would be very capable of coming back later in the series and pitching again,” Mainieri said.
With a win, Poché would match the LSU record of 38 set by Scott Schultz in the early 1990s. That would not factor in Mainieri's decision, though it's possible he wouldn't even have to worry about it.
Unlike professional baseball, Poché does not need to throw a minimum of five innings to earn the win. As long as LSU uses a minimum of three pitchers, the pitcher of record is the one who departs the game with the lead.
"I checked with the official scorer to see what it would take because I didn't want to just pitch him a couple innings ... and lose his chance to be credited with the win," Mainieri said.
Trio of All-Americans
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper released its All-American teams Thursday, and three LSU players made the cut.
Outfielder Greg Deichmann was named a first-team All-American after hitting .330 with 19 homers and 67 RBIs to lead the LSU offensive attack. It was Deichmann’s first All-America honor of his career.
Starting pitcher Alex Lange made the second team after leading the Southeastern Conference in strikeouts (118), while senior shortstop Kramer Robertson made the third team after leading the country in runs (76).
Louisiana-Lafayette pitcher Gunner Leger (10-2, 1.97 ERA, third team), Louisiana Tech pitcher Nate Harris (9-3, 2.31 ERA, second team) and catcher Brent Diaz (.332, 9 HR, third team) rounded out the state’s collegiate All-Americans.
The LSU trio were the only players in the Baton Rouge regional to be recognized by the publication.
Mississippi State first baseman Brent Rooker (.403, 21 HR) and Louisville’s two-way star Brendan McKay (.363, 17 HR, 9-3, 2.37 ERA) shared Player of the Year honors.
Southeastern was supposed to practice late Thursday morning at Alex Box Stadium, but an accident on I-12 delayed its departure and led to the Lions switching practice times with their Friday opponent, Rice.
“Typical,” said Southeastern coach Matt Riser. “It’s inevitable. If we have a bus trip and we’re leaving town, there’s going to be a wreck somewhere in Louisiana.”
The four teams in the Baton Rouge regional have combined to steal more than 300 bases between them this season, with Texas Southern (104) and Southeastern (110) responsible for a hefty chunk of the damage.
Texas Southern and Southeastern both rank in the top-10 nationally in stolen bases.
In addition to being one of the top base-stealing teams in the country, Southeastern has done the best job among teams in the Baton Rouge regional controlling opponents’ run game.
Southeastern’s opponents have been successful on only 26 of 45 stolen base attempts this season, a 57.8 percent success rate.
Teams have successfully stolen 79.8 percent of the time (57-72) against Rice this year.
Quote of the Day
“If we’re throwing strikes, we’re a pretty good team against anybody, because we can hit the ball a little bit, too. I don’t know if we can hit Alex Lange, but we can hit the ball.” — Rice coach Wayne Graham.