OXFORD, Miss. — Jared Poché has been warned: Watch out for the pennies and rocks.
Poché, a freshman from Lutcher, is set to start Game 2 against Ole Miss on Friday at Oxford-University Stadium, a setting known to LSU veterans as one of the rowdiest environments in the Southeastern Conference.
More than 2,000 students squeeze into the cement stands beyond right field and against the opposing bullpen, creating a hectic scene for opposing pitchers.
Poché has been told what to expect from over-hanging students as he warms up before Friday’s 6:30 p.m. start.
“Heard they throw some pennies, rocks, things like that,” Poché said. “I’m just (going to) trying to focus in, try not to worry about them.”
Poché (6-2, 2.54) will be starting his third SEC road games. He’s struggled through the first two, against Vanderbilt and Florida.
In three home starts in SEC play, Poché has an ERA of 1.96 with 15 strikeouts and five walks. In the road starts, he had a 7.71 ERA with four strikeouts and eight walks.
“It’s not that he’s pitching worse on the road than at home,” ace Aaron Nola said. “Just more experience. Once he starts pitching on the road more and more, it’s going to get easier for him.”
Nola’s been there before. As a freshman, he started Game 3 in Oxford two years ago — a game he won to lift LSU (28-9-1, 8-6-1 SEC) to a series victory.
He’ll get the nod Thursday night in the series opener against the Rebels (29-9, 9-6).
He knows what to expect.
“We all know Ole Miss is a special place,” Nola said. “Stuff’s going to be said to us. We’ve got to let it go one ear and out the other.”
Mark Laird, who will be expected to start in right field, has heard the stories.
He spoke to reporters Wednesday before the Tigers practiced at Swayze Field. Over his right shoulder, the cement bleachers were quiet. They were dotted with folding chairs and tailgating tents, signs of the impending rush Thursday night.
Mainieri’s well aware of the student section, too. During Ole Miss home runs, the section has a beer-tossing tradition.
“They enjoy their libations. That’s for sure,” Mainieri said. “I know when Ole Miss hits a home run, they throw their beer up in the air like a beer shower, which is kind of annoying, quite frankly.”
Getting Trent back
Ole Miss’ Friday starter, Christian Trent, signed with LSU out of St. Paul High and spent a year in Baton Rouge using a redshirt before leaving for “off-the-field stuff,” Mainieri said.
But the coach wanted Trent back at LSU after his stint at Delgado Community College.
“I was actually hoping to talk to him about coming back, but before I even had that opportunity, Ole Miss pounced on him,” Mainieri said Wednesday.
Trent (4-0, 2.44) has developed into Ole Miss’ No. 2 starter.
“I thought he could pitch, and I thought he could help us,” Mainieri said. “I really didn’t want to see him leave. At that time, he needed to kind of mature. Always thought he was a good kid. Just lacked a little discipline at times. Not in a bad way.”
Trent isn’t the only LSU connection on Ole Miss’ team. Head coach Mike Bianco was a catcher for the Tigers and returned to Skip Bertman’s staff as an assistant.
Bianco’s assistant at Ole Miss, Cliff Godwin, was on Mainieri’s staffs at LSU and Notre Dame.
LSU players and coaches spent the night on a sleeper bus that left Metairie after the Tigers’ 13-5 win over Southern Miss on Tuesday night. They arrived in Memphis at 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Players slept in bunk-type beds stacked three on top of each other. The bottom bunk wasn’t a popular place.
“Some people didn’t want to get on the bottom because they were so claustrophobic,” Laird said. “Some people wanted to sit up and sleep.”
The Tigers visited sick children at St. Jude Chilrden’s hospital Wednesday afternoon before making the drive to Oxford for practice.
“It was an unbelievable experience for us,” Nola said. “Heart-wrenching.”
Tyler Moore is expected to catch for Nola in Thursday’s game, Mainieri said. Moore, somewhat hot at the plate lately, was given off in the game at Southern Miss for a “tweaked knee,” the coach said. … Mainieri still is unsure who will start Saturday’s series finale against the Rebels. “We’re just going to wait and see after Friday’s over,” he said.