Tigers refocus following triumph at Florida
Rhymes, Edward out; Aaron Nola on schedule to return
Before leaving for the airport last Wednesday afternoon, LSU coach Paul Mainieri ordered his team to unload the bus and congregate in Champions Plaza behind Alex Box Stadium for one final talk before they were to leave Baton Rouge to take on the vaunted top-ranked Gators.
“I wanted to remind our team that we played pretty good baseball here for a long time,” the coach said. “I don’t think that Florida has one of those facilities that I took them into with six championship monuments, and I wanted to remind them that they were good baseball players or they wouldn’t be here at this kind of program, and there’s nothing to be afraid of going down there.”
Whatever message the coach wanted to get across certainly worked as LSU took two of three from the previously ranked No. 1 team in America, even with non-household names coming up big in several key spots this past weekend.
“The guys stepping in did a phenomenal job hitting-wise and pitching-wise,” said first baseman/right fielder Mason Katz. “They’re here for a reason. They’re here because they can play, and when they get their shot they take advantage of it.”
At the dish, freshman Tyler Moore went four-for-five in Saturday’s series clincher, and newcomer Arby Fields went two-four-four including a key RBI triple in the seventh inning, also in the finale.
In LSU’s first victory of the series, backup catcher Jordy Snikeris started for Ty Ross, who was suspended for the game because he missed a team workout last Wednesday morning, and he went two-for-three and drove in a run.
But the unlikely Tiger surge didn’t just come at the plate. Lefty relievers Chris Cotton (2.2 innings, one earned run Thursday) and Brent Bonvillain (4.0 innings, no earned runs Saturday) were also instrumental in LSU taking its one-run victories over the Gators.
“Cotton was not available for the other two games because I had extended him longer than we had ever pitched him [Thursday], close to 60 pitches,” Mainieri recounted. “So I knew he had to be off the last two days, and Brent Bonvillain steps up and becomes the key to the game with four shutout innings.”
Closer Nick Goody earned two saves in the series as well, although he should be becoming a household name by now.
Of course, many of those players were thrust into extended duty due to a rash of injuries that LSU was able to play through and overcome this weekend.
The SEC’s leading hitter Raph Rhymes took a pitch to the head in Friday’s game and has a mild concussion. He did not practice Monday, and Mainieri ruled him out of Tuesday’s game versus Alcorn State and Wednesday’s game versus Southern Miss in the annual Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic in Metairie. His status for this weekend against Alabama is in question.
Additionally, Alex Edward pulled his right hamstring and is out for what could be an extended period of time. This is actually the opposite hamstring that gave him trouble earlier this season.
Without the services of those players, Mainieri will play Mason Katz, Jared Foster and Fields in the outfield this week, with practice Monday determining who gets the start in center between Foster and Fields.
Moore will get the go at first base, with Grant Dozar’s struggles defensively Thursday having a lot to do with that. Also, Snikeris will likely start at catcher Tuesday night to give Ross some more rest, but Ross remains the long-term starter.
Injury prognosis on the mound is a bit better as Aaron Nola is on schedule to resume his spot in the weekend rotation against Alabama, and he may even pitch Wednesday as a tune up. However, the freshman pitcher is currently battling a case of the flu, but for Mainieri to characterize the flu as a “bigger problem” than his arm soreness, that’s definitely a good sign.
So now with Florida in the rearview mirror, LSU will look forward to Alcorn State Tuesday night. Mainieri instructed his players to forget about the weekend that just passed and focus on the task at hand.
“Great. Great weekend. That’s about all I have to say,” said Katz when asked about taking two of three from Florida.
Joe Broussard will get the start versus Alcorn State with Cody Glenn likely seeing time in relief of him.
“We’re going to let it be Joe Broussard’s game,” said the skipper. “I would like to see Joe Broussard go out and deal for about four of five innings and then probably give the ball to Cody Glenn after that and hopefully Cody Glenn can pitch four good innings.”
The Tigers defeated Alcorn State 19-0 Feb. 18.
If Tuesday goes according to plan, Mainieri will piece Wednesday’s game versus Southern Miss together with several pitchers as he is apt to do for many midweek games.
Tuesday’s game is not televised, but Wenesday’s Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic will be brought to you on Jumbo Sports Network, broadcasted on Cox 4 in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette. You can also find live game blogs of both right here on TigerRag.com and BayouBengalsInsider.com.