Jared Poché, Tigers brace for 9:30 a.m. SEC tournament opener

Jared Poché normally isn’t a morning person.

He’ll have to reverse that if LSU is to start well in the Southeastern Conference tournament.

The Tigers, the event’s No. 3 seed, play at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Hoover against No. 6 seed Vanderbilt or No. 11 seed Tennessee. Those teams play at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in an elimination game.

Poché will start Wednesday’s game, and he expects to wake up at 6 a.m.

“Get up and get all of the sleep out of me,” the freshman from Lutcher said Monday. “It’s going to be different. I can remember playing travel ball when I was younger, playing 9:30 games.”

The team plans to have breakfast at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday before heading to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

Coach Paul Mainieri is attempting to acclimate his guys to the early-morning play by practicing at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. They also worked out Monday morning and then practiced at noon before leaving for Hoover.

“Typically, LSU students are not morning people. I’m sure that comes as a shock to a lot of folks listening,” a laughing Mainieri said.

A loss in Wednesday’s game sends LSU to another 9:30 a.m. game Thursday, an elimination match. Win, and the Tigers play at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Mainieri explained that to his team, calling the afternoon start a “big incentive” for winning Wednesday.

Pitching coach Alan Dunn said he doesn’t expect the early rise to affect his freshman pitcher.

“You just change your mindset when you go to bed. Maybe you go to be a little bit earlier. Maybe you don’t,” Dunn said. “Some guys can have less sleep than others. Young kid. He’ll be excited about getting ready to go.”

Who you rooting for?

LSU’s pitching machine is set for “slider.”

The Tigers are preparing to face similar pitchers from Vanderbilt or Tennessee in their SEC tournament opener.

Mainieri expects either team to throw its No. 1 pitcher against the Tigers. For Vanderbilt, that’s Tyler Beede. Tennessee has Nick Williams.

“We’ve got our machine set up on a hard slider, which is what Nick Williams throws and what Tyler Beede throws,” Mainieri said.

The team will be practicing Tuesday morning during the Vols-Dores game.

“We’ll have lunch together as a team, and we’ll let the players know who we’re going to be playing,” Mainieri said. “We’ll start to prepare that afternoon for the things we do as coaches from a strategic standpoint.”

LSU lost a road series at Vanderbilt earlier this season and won at home in a series against Tennessee.

“Don’t even ask me who I hope we’ll play,” Mainieri said. “Playing Vanderbilt would probably enhance our RPI because they’re a higher RPI team, but Tennessee’s RPI is good, too, so it’s not really going to hurt us.

Tennessee is 45th in the RPI. Vanderbilt is sixth.

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