Is it Poché or Nola? Mainieri yet to name first-game starter for LSU

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU's Jared Poche will start either Friday or Saturday's game in the Baton Rouge Regional, but coach Paul Mainieri hasn't decided which one. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU's Jared Poche will start either Friday or Saturday's game in the Baton Rouge Regional, but coach Paul Mainieri hasn't decided which one.

Nola, Poché will pitch first two games, but order still up in the air

Aaron Nola or Jared Poché? That’s the question.

We’ll all have to wait for the answer.

LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri isn’t announcing his starting pitcher for Friday’s Baton Rouge Regional opener until Thursday.

Mainieri said he’s still deciding on the best choice to pitch against a strong No. 4 seed in Southeastern Louisiana.

The Tigers (44-14-1) and Lions (37-23) meet at 2 p.m. Friday.

The obvious choice, Mainieri said, is to throw Poché on Friday and save Nola for what he calls the “pivotal” game of the regional: the winners’ bracket game Saturday night.

Like LSU, Houston is a strong favorite in its Friday game against Rhode Island-based Bryant. The Cougars, 44-15 and with an RPI of 10, pose a problem against LSU’s right-handed ace, Nola (10-1, 1.49).

The lefty Poché (9-3, 2.21) might be a better choice, the coach said.

“Once you start delving into it, Houston likes to run. Obviously, a left-handed pitcher would help curtail the running game,” Mainieri said. “They’ve got seven left-handed hitters in their lineup. Obviously a left-handed pitcher would be more attractive there.

“But you also have what you think is the best pitcher in the country. Do you just forget about all of that stuff and go with that guy in that pivotal game?”

It is, indeed, the question.

Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn will discuss the matter more through Wednesday. They plan to study Houston scouting reports before coming to a decision.

Either way, Poché and Nola will start the first two games of the regional, Mainieri said.

“Houston presents its challenges, Mainieri said. ]“We need to keep thinking this thing out and figure out the best option.”

Nola claims SEC award

Nola was named the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year, and he was the only Tiger to land on the All-SEC first team.

The league announced its baseball awards Tuesday morning, as voted on by the 14 conference coaches.

Shortstop Alex Bregman was named to the All-SEC second team. Nola and center fielder Andrew Stevenson made the All-SEC defensive team.

Kentucky’s A.J. Reed was selected as the SEC’s Player of the Year, and Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan was tabbed as the Coach of the Year.

Florida pitcher Logan Shore was named SEC Freshman of the Year.

Nola has an ERA of 1.49 and is 10-1. He’s struck out 127 and walked just 26 in 109 innings pitched.

The righty from Baton Rouge is projected as a high first-round selection in the MLB draft in June.

Also Tuesday, Nola was named one of 21 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which goes to the best player in the country.

Regional info: Tickets, TV

All of LSU’s regional games this weekend will be available online at ESPN3, and some games could be picked up by other ESPN platforms, the school announced.

The first two games of the regional Friday will be on ESPN3, but depending on results, other games of the regional could move to ESPN or ESPN2.

Regional tickets were available to season ticket holders through Tuesday. All parking passes are $60. Season-ticket holders who selected the will-call option will be able to pick up their tickets at the LSU ticket office from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday at the LSU ticket office.

Any available all-session booklets will go on sale to the public at 8 a.m. Thursday. Any available individual-session tickets will go on sale to the public at 8 a.m. Friday.

Rainy weekend

There is a 70 percent chance of rain Friday, a 60 percent chance Saturday and a 40 percent chance Sunday.

Is Mainieri worried?

“Yeah, a little bit,” the coach said. “I know these games won’t get rained out. We’ll play until there is a winner.”

LSU has had a game canceled because of rain earlier this season, and two more ended early because of weather.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.

For more coverage of LSU baseball, follow our Line Drives blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/linedrives/.