Poché gets the nod

Freshman LHP Jared Poché gets the start for LSU in its NCAA Tournament opener against Southeastern Louisiana.

Jared Poché tosses and turns the night before he pitches. He said it's been that way as long as he can remember.

He doesn't expect to get much rest Thursday night, and he might have to sneak in a catnap before he takes the mound against Southeastern Louisiana to start Game 1 for LSU in Friday's opener to the Baton Rouge regional.

"I don't know how much sleep I'll get, but going to bed tonight is going to be awesome," Poché said. "My heart will probably be beating pretty fast in anticipation of it."

Poché's been preparing to take the mound all week even though Paul Mainieri didn't make an official announcement about his Game 1 starter until Thursday. That forced Poché to hold his poker face during interviews this week so as not to tip his hand.

And it's that type of stoic confidence that has positioned him to get the nod for the opening game.

"He can go out there and lead us off and pitch the way he's been pitching," Mainieri said. "Obviously if he does that, then I'm confident he can have success. But he's going to have to pitch well. This is a good team we're going up against."

Mainieri did toy with the idea of tossing Aaron Nola on Friday. With Southeastern throwing their ace against the Tigers, Mainieri thought maybe he should send his out there as well.

He also looked maybe too far ahead at a possible Game 2 matchup with Houston and their lefty heavy lineup, one that's aggressive on the base paths, and the southpaw Poché would be ideal to quell their run game.

But Mainieri said he had to slap himself a bit and remember how important that second game is should the win the first. And he wants to have the two-time SEC Pitcher of the Year on the mound for it.

"I was outthinking myself," Mainieri said. "We have an advantage in the sense that we have Aaron Nola, and if we can get to the second game of the winner's bracket, having him pitch in that game would be the best thing for us in the long run."

But nobody's taking a Game 1 win for granted. Nola's start may very well come in an elimination game if Poché doesn't come out strong against Southeastern.

The Tigers aren't even entertaining that possibility though, and based on Poché's recent history, you'd have to like their chances. The freshman's surrendered only one run in his last two starts, a combined 15 innings against Auburn and Vanderbilt, the latter opening the SEC Tournament.

Poché hasn't lost a decision since April 12, but this is his first taste of the NCAA Tournament.

"It'll probably be similar to my first SEC start," Poché said. "I'll have a little adrenaline going, a little pumped up. But I just have to go out there and control that to slow the game down."

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