HOOVER, Ala. — For the fifth consecutive season, LSU will line up on a Saturday looking to punch its ticket to the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game.
But that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
After his Tigers thumped Kentucky 10-0 Thursday night to clinch a spot in the semifinal round, LSU coach Paul Mainieri improved his record in the SEC tournament to 29-6.
Mainieri has the highest winning percentage (.828) of any coach in SEC tournament history. The wins haven’t been cheap, either — LSU has outscored its opponents 219-97 in SEC tournament games under Mainieri, and two of the six losses came by one run.
“That’s a ridiculous number,” senior shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “I think a lot of people come into the SEC tournament just indifferent, but we always take a lot of pride in it. We love coming to Hoover, and it’s an opportunity to win another championship.”
That sort of comment rang true for Mainieri, who refused to take credit for his team’s success in the tournament under his direction.
“I think it’s because we’ve had some really great players at LSU through the years, that’s why,” Mainieri said. “I haven’t thrown one pitch, hit one ball, made one play in the field or run the bases. It’s these young men that’ve achieved those things. Not me the coach.
“I will say this: We love coming here to the SEC tournament. I really think of this tournament as a reward for that 56-game grind that we just negotiated our way through and that 30-game conference schedule.”
HOOVER, Ala. — The sound you heard coming from these parts Thursday night was the lock slamm…
Poché in the tournament
LSU will send senior Jared Poché to the mound against South Carolina on Saturday in Hoover, and that has usually ended with a positive result.
This will be Poché’s fourth SEC tournament start, and LSU has been on the winning side in his three previous starts.
“He’s a guy who always seems to perform best when the moment is big,” Robertson said.
Only one of Poché’s efforts went sideways — he only recorded three outs in a start against Auburn in 2015, as a first-inning throwing error contributed to a long inning that saw five Auburn runs come home.
He was magnificent in his other two starts, though. Poché allowed one earned run in 6.2 innings last season against Mississippi State, the SEC regular-season champions, and he held Vanderbilt to one run over seven innings as a freshman.
In three career SEC tournament starts, Poché is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA. A win Saturday would put him in a tie with Alabama’s Neal Lamb for most wins by an individual pitcher in SEC tournament history.
Poché is also aiming to pass Lane Mestepey and move into second on LSU’s all-time wins list. He has won nine games in each of his four seasons at LSU, and a win Saturday would put him one behind Scott Schultz (38) as the program’s all-time leader.
“He does more with less,” Robertson said. “He might not have a mid-90s fastball and a ton of strikeout pitches, but he battles and he’s so competitive. He’s able to get out of so many jams.
“He’s a guy you love to have out there in big games, because he always seems to be best in these moments.”
HOOVER, Ala. — LSU isn’t quite partying like it’s 1999, but the year is close enough — and i…
Keeping it loose
LSU took part in a light practice Friday at Samford University’s Joe Lee Griffin Field in Birmingham before going out to a team dinner at a local barbecue restaurant.
While taking ground balls, the LSU infielders were participating in a game of “Horse,” in which the fielders would try to make trick plays on routine ground balls.
Josh Smith, Kramer Robertson and Cole Freeman all nailed a play in which they transferred the ball from their glove to their throwing hand between their legs before firing to first base.