Even if most of the Major League Baseball draft won’t conflict with LSU’s super regional against Mississippi State, Paul Mainieri still isn’t pleased with the distractions it could potentially cause.
The first and second rounds of the draft are Monday, leaving the possibility that the Tigers and Bulldogs will be playing a winner-take-all game while the draft unfolds.
The start time of Game 3, if necessary, is not yet determined.
Last year, the draft fell on a Thursday and ended on Saturday — the same day LSU began its super regional against Coastal Carolina. The date of the draft has moved frequently over the past 10 years to accommodate television, but it was on a Monday in 2015.
“I was really hoping we’d get playing on Friday,” Mainieri said. “The biggest reason is because if the series turns into Monday, that’s draft day, and now we’ve got players that are distracted by the major league draft. Anybody that’s talked to me over the course of the last 11 years knows that’s kind of been a thorn in my side."
Pitcher Alex Lange is the most likely LSU player to be taken on the first day of the draft. According to Baseball America, Lange is the 34th-best prospect. Of Baseball America’s top 500 prospects, four other LSU players are listed — right fielder Greg Deichmann (No. 65), second baseman Cole Freeman (No. 167), shortstop Kramer Robertson (No. 360) and pitcher Jared Poche (No. 361)
“The kids are playing the biggest games of their lives, and they’ve got the draft lurking on Monday,” Mainieri said. “If the series isn’t decided by Sunday night, then both teams are going to have to play on Monday while these kids have another phase of their life that they’re going to be thinking about. I just hate that.”
‘Inevitable’ SEC matchup
Though isn’t common for conference rivals to meet in a super regional, Mainieri isn’t surprised the Tigers are meeting a Southeastern Conference opponent in the postseason.
This time, of course, LSU is facing Mississippi State.
“I told our players, ‘Look, I don’t know who you were rooting for. You try not to root for anybody. But the reality is, with seven other SEC teams in the field, it was inevitable we were going to meet another SEC team, whether it would be in the super regional round or in Omaha. The percentages tell you that and the quality of the teams.’ "
LSU has faced an SEC opponent in a super regional only one other time — the 1999 Tuscaloosa super regional against Alabama, the first year of the current format. In Mainieri's tenure, LSU beat Arkansas twice in the College World Series on its way to the 2009 national title.
Three Freshmen All-Americans
LSU center fielder Zach Watson, pitcher Eric Walker and third baseman Josh Smith were named to Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-America team, the newspaper announced Wednesday.
Hitting .316 on the season, Watson became the first LSU player in 16 years to hit four home runs in a regional.
Walker, who owns an 8-1 record with a 3.46 ERA, earned victories in the SEC tournament final against Arkansas and the regional final against Rice.
Smith, who’s bating .290, had five hits in nine at-bats in the Baton Rouge regional and drove in four runs.
Pilkington to start Saturday
Mississippi State ace Konnor Pilkington will start the opening game of the Baton Rouge super regional, Bulldogs coach Andy Cannizaro said Wednesday.
Pilkington is 8-5 and holds a 3.26 ERA over 102 innings. The sophomore left-hander lasted six innings in his previous start against LSU, holding the Tigers to two runs on six hits in a 3-1 loss.
Cannizaro hasn't announced the rest of his rotation for the super regional. Mainieri hasn't announced any of his starters for the weekend.