Jared Poché reminds coach Paul Mainieri of Aaron Nola, LSU’s strike-throwing ace.
So, the coach plans to set Poché on a similar path.
Poché will start Sunday’s game at Vanderbilt, becoming the first true freshman to start for LSU in a conference weekend game since Nola did it two years ago.
“He doesn’t get frazzled,” Mainieri said after LSU’s 7-3 win over Purdue on Sunday. “He’s got a lot of poise. We’re going to rush him along, throw him in there. He wants it.”
Poché won one of two open starting jobs in the Southeastern Conference rotation behind Nola. Kyle Bouman or Cody Glenn will start Saturday. Mainieri said he will reveal that decision Monday.
In three starts, Poché (3-0, 1.00 ERA) has allowed 13 hits and two runs and struck out 14 while walking two in 18 innings.
Less than a year ago, he led Lutcher High to the state championship, going 12-0 with a 0.61 ERA. Now he’ll start on the mound for Game 3 of a series against the consensus top-10 Commodores (15-2) on the road.
“In a perfect world, you’d have three veterans who are all going to be first-round draft choices pitch on your weekends,” Mainieri said. “We’re not right there right now. Maybe we’re hurrying Poché along a little bit quicker than you’d like to but, if you’re going to do it, you don’t mind doing it with him.”
He did it with Nola.
Nola started as a freshman on the Sunday of the Tigers’ SEC-opening series at Mississippi State in 2012. He allowed five runs in the first inning.
“Hopefully Poché will get off to a better start,” a smiling Mainieri said. “You knew Aaron had something special, and I think Poché’s special. I think he’s ready for it. He gives us the best chance.”
Poché will start against Southern on Wednesday but will likely only pitch two innings. Brady Domangue is scheduled to start against Nicholls State on Tuesday.
Now that Mainieri has two starting pitchers in Nola and Poche for the first SEC series, he and pitching coach Alan Dunn have to decide who will get the ball Saturday.
It has come down to two left-handers — Glenn, who has started Sunday in the past two nonconference series, and Bouman, who has made four Saturday starts in a row.
Glenn is 1-1 with a 4.74 ERA, while Bouman, who had a no-decision in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Purdue, is 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA.
Glenn was 7-3 with a 2.68 ERA as the Saturday or Sunday starter a year ago. Bouman, a junior-college transfer, has been exceptional in allowing 18 hits and just four runs in 24.2 innings.
“All decisions are tough because you’re picking between people,” Mainieri said. “Fifty percent of the people end up getting the short end of the decision … and they’re not happy. But whoever gets the nod or get the nod next weekend in Vanderbilt is still going to be counted on in some capacity, whether it’s out of the bullpen or as a midweek starter.”
Give me five
After reaching the end of a five-day stretch in which his team played every day, Mainieri was more than pleased late Sunday afternoon with the way the Tigers responded.
In beating Sacred Heart and Northwestern State and taking all three games of the series with Purdue, LSU outscored the opposition 37-7.
“Five days in a row we got to play games and, you know, everybody made a big deal about it,” Mainieri said. “I was looking forward to it. I thought it was a silver lining because the game of baseball is the type of sport that you have to play a lot.”
Mainieri heaped praise on his offense’s production and his pitching staff.
“I knew we had enough pitching to get through it, and I thought all the pitchers did a tremendous job,” he said.
LSU players have done a decent job laying down the bunt to advance runners so far with 14 sacrifices in their first 16 games, but they caught a bad break Sunday when Tyler Moore tried to squeeze Andrew Stevenson home in the fifth inning.
As the speedy Stevenson broke for the plate, Moore’s bunt landed right in front of home plate. Purdue catcher Sean McHugh picked up the ball and tagged the sliding Stevenson, then fired to first to double up Moore and end the inning.
“That was our first suicide squeeze of the year, and I’ve never seen a double play like that in my life, quite frankly,” Mainieri said as he began to chuckle. “So I guess you can say it backfired.”
Third baseman Christian Ibarra did not play because of a hamstring injury suffered in Saturday’s game. He should be ready for the series at Vanderbilt, Mainieri said. Freshman Danny Zardon started for Ibarra and went 0-for-4. … Alex Bregman extended his hitting streak to nine games by going 2-for-4.