Jake Latz has a set date for his much-anticipated collegiate debut.
Latz will start Wednesday’s game against Grambling at 6:30 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium, coach Paul Mainieri said after Saturday’s 9-7 loss to Vanderbilt.
The left-hander is only expected to throw one or two innings, after which he’ll be followed by Riley Smith, who has experienced a bout of shoulder soreness but has progressed well enough to return.
Earlier this season, Mainieri projected a mid-April return for Latz — the 2014 Illinois Pitcher of the Year who had surgery in November to correct a stress reaction in his left elbow — and his rehab has progressed seamlessly.
Latz threw a simulated game Wednesday which left Mainieri “so excited” and felt pain-free all weekend after facing the live hitters.
Smith, a power right-hander who was a candidate for the starting rotation before the shoulder soreness developed, made three appearances early in the season totaling just three innings with seven earned runs.
The two return just as the Tigers bullpen lost Alden Cartwright, who is set to have Tommy John surgery on Wednesday.
“What a shot in the arm that’ll be to get them back down this stretch run,” Mainieri said.
Lochridge to practice
Third baseman O’Neal Lochridge, sidelined for the past four weeks with a stress fracture in his back, has been cleared to practice on Monday.
Lochridge has taken batting practice, and Mainieri said he took ground balls for the first time Saturday. It’s still a day-by-day process, Mainieri said, but the return to the practice field signals good news.
Freshman Chris Reid has seen most of the time at third in Lochridge’s absence, starting the team’s last seven games where he’s made one error and is currently riding a six-game hitting streak.
1991 champions honored
LSU commemorated the 25th anniversary of the school’s first national championship team before Sunday’s game, recognizing Skip Bertman’s 1991 team that outscored its opponents 48-15 in the College World Series.
Bertman joined a number of his players, including Chad Ogea, Gary Hymel, Mike Sirotka, Rick Greene and Pat Garrity, for the pregame ceremony which included a video montage and a special first pitch.
Ogea, the winning pitcher in the 1991 national championship game, tossed a strike to Hymel, the team’s catcher and Most Outstanding Player in the College World Series, to end the ceremony.