New-look LSU lineup excited to get 2016 season underway against Cincinnati
A swollen lip and wired front teeth couldn’t keep the unmistakable glow of Opening Night excitement from Kramer Robertson’s face.
The facial injuries — the painful result of taking a ground ball off his face during practice Tuesday — will require Robertson to wear a mouthpiece for four-to-six weeks.
“It was pretty ugly,” Paul Mainieri said of the scene. “Blood everywhere. A couple of teeth where they weren’t supposed to be. And he didn’t even want to leave practice.”
It won’t be nearly enough to keep the third-year second baseman from taking the field as LSU opens up the 2016 season against Cincinnati at Alex Box Stadium on Friday night.
“It’s been a week from hell,” Robertson said. “That happened, and then yesterday — I don’t know if it was the antibiotics or what — I was throwing up all day. But I’ve just got to block it out and focus on Cincinnati. I’m good to go.”
Robertson and center fielder Jake Fraley — the only position players who return from last season’s opening day lineup — represent the veteran contingent of the new-look lineup, so butterflies could be an issue for some of LSU’s first-time starters.
“A little bit nervous,” freshman right fielder Antoine Duplantis said. “It was tough to go to sleep last night. I’m sure it’ll be tough to go to sleep tonight. I’m excited though. There’s some nerves, but there’s going to be a lot of emotions going.”
Mainieri will have no such concerns about the man who’ll toe the rubber on Friday night. Jared Poche’ has been through this before, and the stoic southpaw just isn’t the type to let the moment get too big for him.
“There’s a few young guys who’ll have some nerves going,” Poche’ said. “I was really nervous for my first game. But as far as me being nervous now, I’m not really the type of guy who gets nervous. I kind of use that to me benefit to pump me up.”
Mainieri said Poche’, Alex Lange and John Valek will all work under a pitch count of about 85 pitches this weekend. He didn’t anticipate anyone working more than five or six frames.
– Starting shortstop Trey Dawson missed his second consecutive practice Thursday while battling a case of pink eye. Mainieri told reporters that Dawson’s status for Opening Night remained uncertain. If the freshman is indeed out, third baseman Cole Freeman would slide over to shortstop with either O’Neal Lochridge or Chris Reid — both true freshmen — stepping in at third.
– RHP Riley Smith (sore shoulder) threw a bullpen session under the close watch of Alan Dunn before practice Thursday. Mainieri said the results will determine if he pitches an inning in Sunday’s series finale or held out until the upcoming midweek trip to Lamar.
LSU – Jr. LHP Jared Poche’ (9-2, 3.05 ERA, 109.1 IP, 25 BB, 72 SO in 2015)
UC – Jr. RHP Andrew Zellner (2-5, 3.63 ERA, 69.1 IP, 32 BB, 57 SO in 2015)
LSU –So. RHP Alex Lange (12-0, 1.97 ERA, 114.0 IP, 46 BB, 131 SO in 2015)
UC – TBA
LSU – Sr. LHP Jon Valek III (6-6, 3.25 ERA, 99.2 IP, 26 BB, 62 SO in 2015 at the University of Akron)
UC – TBA
LINKS TO KNOW
Cincinnati Bearcats (0-0) at #5 LSU Fighting Tigers (0-0)
· Friday, Feb. 19 – 7 p.m. CT
· Saturday, Feb. 20 – 2 p.m. CT
· Sunday, Feb. 21 – 12 p.m. CT
· Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field (10,326) in Baton Rouge, La.
· LSU – No. 5 by USA Today; No. 7 by Collegiate Baseball; No. 11 by Baseball America
· UC – unranked
· Friday and Sunday – LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates (WDGL 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge)
· Saturday- WTGE 100.7 FM in Baton Rouge
· LSUsports.net – live audio and live stats for all three games
·All three games may be viewed on SEC Network +, accessible at SECNetwork.com and the Watch ESPN app
Friday’s game marks the second baseball meeting between LSU and Cincinnati. The first came in 1954 in Baton Rouge, where the Bearcats posted a 10-4 win over the Tigers. LSU coach Paul Mainieri has a 4-0 career mark against Cincinnati; the four meetings came during Mainieri’s tenure at Notre Dame (1995-2006).
On Friday, free 2016 LSU Baseball Schedule Posters will be given away – while supplies last – to fans as they enter the stadium.