But Mainieri says freshman pitcher’s stint won’t last long
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said Aaron Nola will get the start in the Tigers’ first game at the Southeastern Conference tournament, but the freshman right-hander is only expected to go the first inning or two before giving way to the bullpen.
“If we’re fortunate enough to get all the way to the weekend, he’ll be ready to start again on the weekend,” Mainieri said.
No. 1 seed LSU plays (42-14) its first game at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala., at approximately 12:30 p.m. Wednesday against either No. 9 seed Ole Miss, No. 7 seed Mississippi State or No. 6 seed Arkansas. Nola (6-4, 4.03 ERA) will make his first start since going six innings in a 5-4 loss to South Carolina on Friday night.
Mainieri said ace Kevin Gausman (9-1, 2.86 ERA) will get the start Thursday in LSU’s second game of the tournament.
Ross on the mend
Mainieri expected sophomore catcher Ty Ross to be back at practice Monday for the first time since undergoing a May 12 appendectomy. Ross last played in a series-opening win against Vanderbilt.
Mainieri said Ross would “play a little catch and swing the bat a little bit” at Monday’s practice. He did not expect Ross to resume position-specific work until later in the week.
“The uniqueness of his position is the thing that we’re most concerned about,” Mainieri said. “We’re just not going to push it.”
Mainieri said he hopes Ross will be back at full strength when LSU opens regional action next weekend. But he believes the catcher could be used on a limited basis — perhaps as a designated hitter — at the SEC tournament if the Tigers make a deep enough run.
Senior Jordy Snikeris had replaced Ross as LSU’s everyday catcher before taking a foul tip off the index finger on his right (throwing) hand in the ninth inning of Friday’s 5-2 win at South Carolina. Snikeris returned as a pinch-hitter — and scored the go-ahead run — in Saturday’s finale, but was not in the starting lineup for either of the final two game in the series.
Mainieri said a specialist was scheduled to examine the injured finger Monday afternoon.
“It really bothers (Snikeris) the most when he tries to throw a ball because of the way it bends the finger back at the point of release,” Mainieri said.
Freshman Tyler Moore, who filled in for Snikeris the final two games of the South Carolina series, is the likely starter behind the plate for Wednesday afternoon.
Austin Nola honored
LSU senior shortstop Austin Nola was named Monday to the 2012 SEC Baseball Community Service Team for the second consecutive year by the conference office.
The team looks to highlight an athlete from each school who gives back to his community in superior service activities.
Nola, who received his LSU bachelor’s degree in sports administration on Friday, is a finalist for the 2012 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, given annually to the senior college baseball player who excels in the areas of classroom, competition, character and community.
Rhymes receives award
LSU outfielder Raph Rhymes on Monday was named the SEC of the year by SEBaseball.com, a website devoted to college baseball.
Rhymes enters the week batting .469 with only 11 strikeouts in 196 at-bats.
“It’s such a great honor because the SEC is full of great players,” Rhymes said. “I could have picked out guys on this team that I would have given it to. All around the league there are just so many players deserving of it, for me to be chosen it was a huge honor.”
The SEC office will announce Monday its all-conference teams and individual honorees as voted on by the league coaches.
LSU has not had a player earn the SEC player of the year award since Jon Zeringue in 2004. Louis Coleman was the SEC pitcher of the year in 2009.
Mainieri’s Hoover success
Mainieri enters the week with a 13-1 mark in the SEC tournament. His Tigers have won the tournament in all three of his previous appearances.
LSU did not make it to Hoover in 2007 or 2011.
This year’s team makes the trip on the heels of claiming its first outright regular-season title since 2003 and seemingly assured of receiving a top-eight national seed in the NCAA tournament regardless of how the Tigers fare this week.
“Believe me, these games matter to us,” Mainieri said. “We certainly want to go there and make a good representation of ourselves.”