Late change puts LSU ace Aaron Nola back on mound Friday night

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND -- LSU left-hander Jared Poché will start Friday's game against Mississippi State in Alex Box Stadium. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND -- LSU left-hander Jared Poché will start Friday's game against Mississippi State in Alex Box Stadium.

Mainieri ponders giving ball to Poché, ultimately decides to go with Nola

The aces will meet after all —well, maybe.

In a late-night move Thursday, coach Paul Mainieri flip-flopped his starting pitchers for the first two games of the three-game series against Mississippi State.

Ace Aaron Nola (5-1, 0.55) will pitch Friday’s game against what many believe is the Bulldogs’ No. 1, junior lefty Ross Mitchell (5-1, 1.55). Freshman Jared Poché will throw Saturday against junior righty Trevor Fitts (2-1, 3.09).

Nola, the Tigers’ usual Friday night starter, was set to start Saturday to give him the normal six days of rest between starts, Mainieri announced to reporters Thursday afternoon. Nola pitched last Saturday at Florida after Friday’s game was rained out. He threw more than 100 pitches.

Poché (5-2, 2.61) was scheduled to make the first weekend series-opening start of his career against the Bulldogs’ star veteran, Mitchell.

Mississippi State’s lineup — and both for that matter — is subject to change.

Mainieri texted The Advocate late Thursday night with the change, citing the weather forecast for the move.

There is a 60-90 percent chance of raining starting Friday night and extending into Sunday. Starting Nola on Friday assures that the All-American pitch against the Bulldogs in a heated Southeastern Conference rivalry between preseason top-10 teams.

There could be more layers to Mainieri’s move.

Mississippi State (20-10, 6-3 SEC) made a surprising pitching change Thursday morning.

The Bulldogs had been pitching Mitchell on Saturdays and Preston Brown on Fridays. In the pitching rotation LSU (21-8-1, 3-5-1) received from State on Wednesday, that was the lineup.

On Wednesday night, LSU then sent State its pitching lineup, with Nola going Saturday.

On Friday morning, State coach John Cohen told reporters that Brown had a shoulder injury and that Mitchell would start Saturday.

It pit Mitchell against the rookie Poché and left State’s No. 2/3 pitcher, Fitts, to throw against Nola. Brown could pitch Sunday. Both teams have not announced a Sunday starter.

Mainieri opened Thursday’s meeting with reporters with the story about the pitching situation.

“After the game (Wednesday against McNeese State), I went in and had an email from (sports information director) Bill (Franques) announcing Mississippi State’s rotation, and their normal rotation they had their No. 1 guy going on Saturday, Ross Mitchell. So I liked the matchup. I wanted to match Nola up against Mitchell,” Mainieri said.

“After I sent the rotation to Bill, Mississippi State changed the rotation. Now Mitchell’s throwing on Friday night. It’s OK. They’re saying that their typical Friday night starter has some shoulder problems, Brown.”

Bouman questionable still

Starting pitcher Starting pitcher Kyle Bouman remains questionable for the weekend series against the Bulldogs as he recovers from a badly sprained ankle.

The Tigers won’t announce a starter for Sunday until after Saturday’s game, Mainieri said.

Mainieri said Bouman had a noticeable limp when he trotted out to the mound to pitch to one batter during Wednesday’s win over McNeese State.