With weather expected to impact most of the Baton Rouge regional, LSU coach Paul Mainieri has contingency pitching plans if forecasts before the game indicate showers could halt play.
“It’s obviously very difficult to predict what the weather is,” Mainieri said. “We’ll have an alternative plan just in case there’s a huge cell there’s an hour away and we’re getting ready to start the game, I might switch to a different plan at that point. I’d rather not share it with you, I’m not exactly sure what it would be because I don’t know what the weather would be like.”
The National Weather Service shows a 70 percent chance of rain Friday.
Mainieri faced a similar scenario to open last season’s Baton Rouge regional. He started reliever Alden Cartwright, who lasted just one clean inning before downpours halted play in a 10-3 win against Lehigh.
Weather-related decisions have backfired on the tenth-year coach, too. He flipped Alex Lange and Riley Smith for the final regular-season series of the season against Florida, giving Lange the nod on Thursday after forecasts showed a larger chance of rain Friday.
Lange threw three shutout innings before thunderstorms forced a suspension of the game until Saturday. The reigning National Freshman of the Year was lost for the remainder of the series.
“Right now the plan is to start Jared Poche and hopefully the weather stays clear and he goes out and pitches us deep into the game,” Mainieri said.
Jake Latz available
As expected, Mainieri said southpaw Jake Latz is available to pitch, though the coach will be cautious if he chooses to use Latz in relief.
Latz, who started LSU’s 5-4 win against Tennessee to open the SEC tournament, said his one-inning outing against Northwestern State on May 17 was the first time he’d ever come out of the bullpen.
Mainieri said in that instance, and in Latz’s relief appearance in the regular season finale against Florida on May 21, the redshirt freshman required more warmup time than other relievers.
“We’ll see how we’re going to use him,” Mainieri said. “My only concern with him out of the bullpen is how much time does it take him to warm up. He’s never entered a game in the middle of an inning before and even when I used him out of the bullpen the two times, I had to give him a two-inning warning. You don’t know what situation is going to be there in the seventh inning of the game, if it’s going to be on the line.”
Mainieri also mentioned Latz is “certainly a candidate” if LSU is forced to play an “if necessary” game Monday.
Utah Valley’s Beddes ‘not scared’
Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 250 pounds, Utah Valley right-hander Danny Beddes isn’t easily intimidated.
LSU’s upstart offense won’t do the job, either.
Beddes, a senior with a 4.33 ERA, will start for the Wolverines opposite Poche and LSU. He’s 9-3 this season with 96 strikeouts in 99.2 innings. Opponents hit .238 against him.
“This is the best stadium we’ve played at so far,” Beddes said. “It’s got that atmosphere where you know it’s going to be packed, it’s going to be crazy, it’s going to be fun to pitch in … Honestly, I’m not scared of them. They’re a good team. We’ve played good teams, but maybe not to this level. It’s going out and doing your thing. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. If they hit, they hit, but there’s nothing to be scared of.”
With the retirement of Lamar coach Jim Gilligan and Texas coach Augie Garrido’s departure, Mainieri moved into the top-five among winningest all-time active, Division I coaches. Mainieri, with 1,321 wins, is fifth on the list, trailing Florida State’ Mike Martin, Stanford’s Mark Marquess, Miami’s Jim Morris and North Carolina’s Mike Fox … Southeastern Louisiana’s bid to the Baton Rouge regional is the first at-large bid in school history.
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome