LSU's Game 1 starting pitcher still TBD

LSU has still not announced its starting pitcher for the first game of the NCAA Tournament, and it's likely that several pitchers appear Friday against Lehigh.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri knows who’ll pitch Saturday and Sunday. Who’s going to start Friday in the Baton Rouge regional opener? Mainieri doesn’t know that yet.

Alex Lange will take the mound in LSU’s second game of the NCAA Tournament. Jared Poché will get the third, whether it’s an elimination game or in a chance to advance to the next round.

But Mainieri hasn’t yet decided who’ll get the nod Friday at 3 p.m. against Lehigh.

“There are a lot of different options of how we can do Friday,” Mainieri said. “We’re just going to think about it a little more.”

LSU’s 10 relievers all threw live action during Tuesday’s practice as a way for the coaches to further evaluate their options. Mainieri said any one of them could start Friday’s game, and “Jack Wholestaff” could make a postseason appearance.

“Don’t be surprised if there are a lot of pitchers that throw on Friday,” Mainieri said. “Let’s put it that way.”

LSU finds itself in this situation because a third starter never really emerged during the season. Austin Bain seemed in the driver’s seat after a strong finish, including a seven-strikeout performance in the penultimate game of the year.

But Bain crashed back to Earth in the SEC Tournament, giving up four runs before exiting in the second inning.

“He didn’t pitch well at all,” Mainieri said. “I just didn’t like his mound presence, his tempo. He wasn’t showing a lot of poise. He looked like a true freshman.”

Bain’s still in the mix to start Friday, but he wasn’t one of the 10 pitchers to throw a simulated game Tuesday. LSU has five other pitchers (excluding Lange and Poché) on the postseason roster that have started at least one game this season, and Mainieri gave the impression it would be one of them that pitches Friday instead of Bain.

And if LSU does have to piece together a game against the regional’s No. 4 seed, then they appear willing to accept that challenge.

“Everyone stays on their toes and that helps keep everyone focused,” said reliever Parker Bugg. “We’ve had success with that in the past.”


That’s how Jared Poché described his most recent start when he lasted just one inning against Auburn in LSU’s first game of the SEC Tournament. He faced nine batters and allowed five to score on three hits and a pair of walks.

Mainieri called it an “aberration,” but Poché has given up 11 runs in his last two starts, a combined 7 innings. He’s ready to reverse that trend this weekend, when he pitches LSU’s third game of the Baton Rouge regional.

“Anytime I don’t do as well as I’d like, I always want to go out there the next time and prove to myself that I can do it,” Poché said. “It’ll be a big game, so I’ll have to come through for the team.”

Poché will have plenty of time to prepare for it. His next start will come 11 days after his last, and he threw only 35 pitches in that game against Auburn.

Poché said he’ll do a little extra side work during the week, but can a pitcher have too much rest?

“It could be a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll work out. My arm will definitely be feeling great. I’ll have a lot of rest, so I’ll be looking forward to it.”

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