LSU baseball looks to bounce back on the road

LSU will hit the road Tuesday for a meeting against Northwestern State. The Tigers will try to bounce back from a disappointing loss Tuesday with spots in the rotation and lineup still up for grabs.

LSU will spend its Mardi Gras in Natchitoches against the Northwestern State Demons after taking two of three from Yale this past weekend.

Originally scheduled for 7 p.m., it was announced Monday that first pitch had been moved up to 3:30 p.m. to account for inclement weather expected in the area Tuesday night. The elements will still be present though, as weather forecasts predict a temperature of 42 degrees at game time with a steady drop throughout the evening.

"It'll definitely test the toughness — mentally and physically — of both teams," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "It's a shame because I know they were really excited about having us up there. I'm sure that this cold weather is going to scare some people away. I'm not sure I'd go to the game if I didn't have to."

Mainieri does need to be there as he'll hope to see his team bounce back from a disappointing loss Sunday. LSU had held Yale scoreless through 22 innings and had a 6-0 lead before the Bulldogs erupted for a four-run fifth inning. They'd go on to take the lead and hold off a late charge by the Tigers for the victory.

Combine that with LSU's rain-shortened loss to Louisiana-Lafayette last Tuesday, and Mainieri said he needed to ensure his players didn't start to get down. Tomorrow's game against Northwestern State should prove the Tigers' mindset.

"You have to take pride in not having losing streaks," Mainieri said. "This is a very humbling game for individuals and for the team as a whole…But we have to take it like men, learn from it, move forward and hopefully play well tomorrow. What's done is done. You can't turn back the clock and do it over again."

LSU will expect the Demons' best effort though. Northwestern State took the Tigers to 13 innings last season, a game LSU pulled out 2-1.

Steven Spann will take the mound for the Demons on Tuesday, and he'll be familiar with the Tiger lineup. He pitched three innings in that meeting last year and didn't allow a hit. LSU's only base runners against him came on a pair of walks.

"We didn't get much off of him," Mainieri said of Spann, who has a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings this year. "He's just a typical right-hander with a decent arm and decent secondary pitches. You got to get what you earn against him."

POCHE'S FIRST ROAD START, ROTATION UNDECIDED


True freshman Jared Poche will take the mound Tuesday for the first road start of his LSU career. Poche's had an impressive start to the year, only allowing one run in 13 innings, and he's making a strong case for a spot in the weekend rotation.

Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn have not made any final decisions though on who will start against Vanderbilt two weekends from now. Those discussions will happen on the bus back from Natchitoches, and a lot will depend on Poche's outing.

"Everything we've done up to this point will be factored into it all," Mainieri said. "But I've said all along that I probably wouldn't be close to a decision until after this game tomorrow."


Though Mainieri has said he'd like to have things set by this weekend's series against Purdue, that may not be the case. He said if Poche has an extended outing and isn't ready for the Boilermakers, he'll have a short stint next Tuesday against Nicholls then possibly be reinserted into the rotation for Vanderbilt.

But Mainieri has high expectations for Poche on Tuesday, and he said his pitcher won't be affected by the cold temperatures.

"He's looking forward to it," Mainieri said. "I know he's a South Louisiana boy, but he understands too that the advantage is to the pitcher in cold weather, and if he can pound that strike zone, especially in on the hitter's hands, it works to his advantage."


Kramer Robertson's vying for an everyday spot in the lineup

OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR LSU DEFENSIVELY


Mainieri is still tinkering with LSU's defensive configuration, but he's certainly happy to have the options.

Kade Scivicque will start at catcher Tuesday with Tyler Moore the designated hitter. Chris Chinea will be behind the plate Wednesday against Sacred Heart, and though he's caught Nola on all three Fridays this season, Mainieri said he's considering moving Scivicque into that spot.

"He's just a real competitive kid," Mainieri said of Scivcique, who leads the team with a .429 batting average. "He's got talent, and I'm really high on him."

On the right side of the infield, Conner Hale will start at first base Tuesday with Kramer Robertson at second base. While Mainieri likes what he's seen out of the freshman, especially on the defensive side, he's hesitant to name Robertson an everyday player.

"I've not hidden my enthusiasm for the kid," Mainieri said. "He's a great ball player, he just needs consistency and the instincts for the game to develop. I don't know if I'm rushing him in or not. He's not afraid. The situation's not too big for him. It's just a matter of knowing the game well enough that he can do the things he needs to do."

LAGNIAPPE


---Mainieri isn't ruling out Brady Domangue as a candidate to be a starter this season. Though Domangue struggled in his first two appearances out of the bullpen, he bounced back Friday against Yale, surrendering just one hit in two innings.

Domangue will start Wednesday against Sacred Heart, and Mainieri hopes that will be an opportunity for him to keep things going in the right direction.

"I just thought if we start him at the beginning of the game, it's a comfortable role he's used to, and there's a mentality when you're a starting pitcher that it's your game," Mainieri said. "All of those things might help him."

---Joe Broussard has won the closer's role for LSU. He hasn't allowed a run in five innings of work this season, only allowing two hits and one walk with four strikeouts.

"I just like his stuff," Mainieri said. "When you get into the SEC schedule, a guy throwing 93-94 mph with a pretty good curveball gives you a better chance at the end."

---Mainieri has pretty much settled on the first six spots in his lineup. He likes the order of Sean McMullen, Mark Laird, Alex Bregman, Conner Hale, Kade Scivicque and Christian Ibarra.

---LSU took a small hit in the polls after a 2-2 week. The Tigers dropped two spots in both the Baseball America (No. 9) and Perfect Game (No. 11) polls. LSU fell to No. 4 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper rankings, which previously had the Tigers No. 1. The NCBWA poll had not been released when this article was posted.

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