When Florida State arrived at Alex Box Stadium Friday afternoon, LSU coach Paul Mainieri embraced the team's left-handed ace.
Drew Parrish, the Seminoles sophomore, was the No. 1 starter on the USA Baseball Collegiate National team last summer, when Mainieri was the national team's head coach.
Now, Parrish (8-5, 5.07 ERA) will start Game 1 of the best-of-three super regional against LSU on Saturday at 2 p.m.
"I love that kid," Mainieri said of Parrish, who was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA on the national team in 10⅓ innings. "He just gave you everything he had every time he went out there. He's just your typical crafty left-hander: He's not going to overpower you with his fastball. He's got a good curveball and a good changeup. He's going to use his fastball both sides of the plate."
It's been a while since Mainieri's had a typical crafty left-hander in his own bullpen.
LSU lost its only left-handed pitcher on the roster, freshman Easton McMurry, after he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Feb. 21.
Mainieri can't remember ever going through a season without a lefty pitcher, much less making a deep postseason run without one. And although he said "it makes it a little bit more challenging," there are a few LSU righties who are still pretty good against left-handed batters.
"Even though some guys are right-handed, they actually do really well against left-handed hitters because of what their repertoire of pitches is," said Mainieri, who didn't name the pitchers to not give away "trade secrets." "And the other guys are not as successful against lefties. So I try to avoid those matchups whenever I can."
According to NCAA data, junior reliever Matthew Beck is LSU's best reliever against left-handed hitters. Opposing lefties bat .189 against Beck, who had a key strikeout against Southern Miss in last Sunday's regional win, when there were two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth.
As it turns out, LSU has four pitchers who've held lefties below a .220 batting average: starter Cole Henry (.204), starter Clay Moffitt (.227) and reliever Devin Fontenot (.219).
Two of LSU's main relievers, Trent Vietmeier (.396) and Zack Hess (.315), are two of the most susceptible to left-handed hitting.
By this point, LSU's hitters have seen enough left-handed pitching from opponents, Mainieri said, that the team's early struggles against lefties has evened out as the season progressed.
The Tigers bat .254 against left-handed pitching — a dip from its .283 average against right-handed pitching — and catcher Saul Garza (.378) and center fielder Zach Watson (.338) have the team's highest averages against lefties, with a combined five home runs and 25 RBIs.
Florida State's Parrish has an inflated ERA, due to two games where he struggled heavily: once when we gave up nine runs in one inning against Louisville on May 16, and another when he gave up eight runs against North Carolina State on March 15.
Outside of those games, Parrish would have a 3.47 ERA.
"You're not going to have everything go your way the entire season," Florida State coach Mike Martin said of Parrish, who gave up five runs in a five-inning winning decision against Florida Atlantic in the Athens Regional last week. "He didn't throw in the towel or point fingers and change his personality. He just worked."