‘We’ve been grooming him for almost two years’: Jake Latz will start LSU’s SEC tournament opener _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU starting pitcher Jake Latz (67) pitches against McNeese State in the first inning, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La.

Jake Latz is primed for another return.

The highly-touted southpaw who had a setback following the only collegiate start of his career — a 1.1-inning stint against McNeese State on April 12 — could pitch an inning in relief during Tuesday’s game against Northwestern State, coach Paul Mainieri said.

If Latz did pitch, Mainieri said, it would only be for an inning. The redshirt freshman threw a bullpen in South Bend, Indiana during the team’s road trip to Notre Dame last week and has received the green light to throw in a game from Tigers trainer Cory Couture.

“I felt good and the results were good,” Latz said Monday. “Every pitch was working, my curveball is coming along a lot better too. That’s good.”

Mainieri said prior to Monday’s practice he was waiting to speak with the redshirt freshman to hear him say he was ready to throw in a game.

Latz threw 36 pitches and stayed around 90 mph in his start against McNeese, issuing three hits and two earned runs without finishing the second inning.

“I’d probably say (I feel) better, honestly,” Latz said when asked to compare this time to the McNeese start. “I just feel like the first time I went out there, going out there, seeing the hitter, that would just release it all and let it go. It kind of worked a little bit, but I had some pain left over. But I was trying to be cautious at that point, really get it out of my system, and I’m trying as hard as I can just to say ‘You know what, just go for it.’”

“All I’m hoping for and thinking about is just going out there and being well.”

Lochridge still day-to-day

O’Neal Lochridge had another back MRI last week and went to the doctor Monday, Mainieri said. No results were immediately available and Mainieri still labeled the St. Thomas More product as “day to day.”

Lochridge, who had cemented his role as LSU’s third baseman, suffered a flare up of a stress fracture in his back just before Southeastern Conference play began. He has not played since LSU’s 7-1 loss to Ball State on March 11.

Top-10 Tigers

Fresh off a 5-0 week that ran its winning streak to eight games, LSU crept back into the top-10 of three major polls — D1Baseball.com, Baseball America and Perfect Game.

The Tigers, who were ranked as low as No. 22 in some polls last week, face the consensus-No. 1 team in the country, Florida, in a three-game series at Alex Box Stadium this weekend.

Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter @Chandler_Rome