By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
OMAHA, Neb. — Johnny Wholestaff, get ready to make your College World Series debut.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri unveiled his pitching plans for the best-of-three championship series against Florida on Sunday afternoon.
“What I’m basically doing is working our way backwards,” the coach said.
It’ll begin with Russell Reynolds, the coach announced later in the day Sunday. From there LSU will roll out its two big guns. Lefty Jared Poche’ will go in game two, and if the two sides split those games, ace Alex Lange will come back to start a winner-take-all game three.
Here’s the crux of Mainieri’s logic: Lange, the first-round pick of the Cubs, threw 115 pitches to defeat Oregon State on Friday night, and therefore won’t be brought back on less than four day’s rest.
“I just feel in my heart that it’s the right thing to do,” Mainieri said. “He’s first-round draft choice, a long career ahead of him. He’s never pitched on three days’ rest before so I don’t know how effective he would be.”
With that in mind, Mainieri reasoned, why not just give Poche’ an extra day of rest, too.
“I want to do everything in my power to make sure that he leaves our program healthy for the Chicago Cubs,” Mainieri said of Lange. “So, again, because I’m not going to pitch him until Wednesday, I feel like Poché can get an extra day rest that way as well.”
It makes sense strategically, too.
Due to the fact that LSU began its College World Series on day before Florida, Lange will be able to return in the championship series.
That likely isn’t the case for Florida ace Alex Faedo, who threw 113 pitches on Saturday night to get the Gators into the finals. Faedo is 2-0 in Omaha and hasn’t allowed an earned run in 14.1 innings while striking out 22.
“I don’t know,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said of Faedo’s ability to return some time this week. “I haven’t gotten that far.”
O’Sullivan provided greater clarity for his game one pitching plans, but not much beyond that.
Right-hander Brady Singer will take the ball for Florida on Monday night, and O’Sullivan listed Tyler Dyson and closer Michael Byrne as potential game-two starters. Jackson Kowar would be available to start Wednesday on four day’s rest.
But for LSU, the challenge at hand is Singer. The hard-throwing sophomore went the distance allowing six hits against LSU in a 8-1 Florida during a three-game series in Gainesville back in late March.
“I think a lot of people struggle against Brady,” LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the country. We’ve seen him two years now and haven’t had a lot of success off of him. Not many people have. So we know we’re going to have our hands full.”