By scott hotard
June 01, 2012
When he informed Aaron Nola he would be the starter for Friday night’s game against Louisiana-Monroe, LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he had simple instruction for the freshman right-hander.
“I told him, ‘I’m going to give you the ball. Give it back to me at the end of the game,’” Mainieri said.
That’s a much different assignment than when he gave Nola the start last Wednesday against Mississippi State with the understanding he would go to the bullpen after the first two innings of LSU’s opening game at the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Nola pitched so well against Mississippi State, Mainieri said he was tempted to change gears and have the freshman work deep into the game. But after pitching two perfect innings, Nola watched the bullpen go to work in a 3-2 nail-biter.
When he makes his postseason debut, Nola (6-4, 3.93 ERA) will see his most extensive action since pitching the first six innings of a May 18 loss at South Carolina.
“That’s part of the reason he is pitching the opening game,” Mainieri said. “I don’t want him to wait so long to pitch.”
LSU, the regional’s top seed, faces ULM at 7 p.m. Friday. No. 2 seed Oregon State meets No. 3 seed Belmont at 2 p.m. in Friday’s early game.
Nola spent most of the season as the Sunday starter, but teams seeded first in a regional often hold their ace for a potential winners bracket game on the pivotal second day. In this case, Mainieri will have All-SEC right-hander Kevin Gausman (10-1, 2.84 ERA) ready to go for LSU’s second game.
If the Tigers win their first two games of the regional, Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.36 ERA) will have the ball Sunday with a chance to clinch LSU’s first super regional berth since 2009.
“The plan will be for Kevin Gausman to go in Game 2 on Saturday and Ryan Eades in Game 3 on Sunday,” Mainieri said.
ULM has not announced its starter for Friday night, but it’s widely expected the Warhawks will go with Randy Zeigler.
Zeigler (5-6, 3.65 ERA) played his freshman year at LSU, then transferred to Bossier Parish Community College after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He pitched the first 6.1 innings of ULM’s victory over Arkansas State on Sunday in the Sun Belt Conference championship game.
Practice times set
All four teams participating in the Baton Rouge Regional will practice at Alex Box Stadium on the eve of the tournament. All four of the practice sessions Thursday are open to the public.
LSU will go first from 10-11:15 a.m., followed by Oregon State from 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. and Belmont from 1-2:15 p.m. ULM rounds out the day with a practice from 2:30-3:45 p.m.
Rhymes, Gausman on list
Gausman and Raph Rhymes are both among the list of 30 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award given annually to the nation’s top player. The list of semifinalists was released Tuesday by USA Baseball.
Fans can follow online at GoldenSpikesAward.com as the field narrows Tuesday to three finalists.
The Golden Spikes Award will be handed out July 6 with the three finalists on hand at MLB Network’s studios. MLB Network will carry live coverage of the event.
Rhymes, the SEC player of the year, leads the nation with a .459 batting average. Gausman leads the SEC in strikeouts with 125.