By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Paul Mainieri knew the question was coming.
In fact he already answered it three weeks ago, so what better way to start off than a little humor?
“We haven’t seen those guys in a while,” the coach joked. “We miss them.”
The guys he’s referring to are of course Mississippi State coach Andy Cannizaro and his Bulldogs who, fresh off a miraculous run through the Hattiesburg Regional, head to Alex Box Stadium for the Baton Rouge Regional set to begin Saturday night.
That series was huge. Two titles hung in the balance as LSU went to Starkville and swept the final three games of the regular season.
This one is even bigger.
“It was unavoidable and I understood the storyline,” Mainieri said. “But I think this weekend, we’ve already gotten that out of the way. I’m sure all Andy is concerned about is having his team ready to play and beat LSU so they can go to Omaha. I know that’s the only thing that crosses my mind.”
Mainieri said he and Cannizaro haven’t spoken since that series, but the LSU boss expressed nothing but pleasantries about his former hitting coach and recruiting coordinator.
He expressed bewilderment that two references to Cannizaro as “the previous hitting coach” during at postgame press conference at the SEC Tournament created something of a buzz on social media.
“There was nothing intended,” he said. “No subliminal messages there. I don’t tweet, so I don’t know what Andy sent back, but there’s no bad blood. Andy was good worker for our program for two-plus years and now he’s the head coach at Mississippi State.
“I knew when we went there that we were going to have battles until my career is over or Andy’s career is over. Hopefully mine will end before his does because he’s a young man.”
As for that first series itself, LSU knows that those three wins in Starkville don’t mean much of anything anymore.
As Cole Freeman put it, if Mississippi State takes two games this time around, they’ll loom a whole lot larger than LSU’s previous three.
“Our mindset is to totally forget about it,” shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “Those three games will have nothing to do with this weekend. We’re not looking at it like we already beat this team three times. We’re not thinking of it that we need to beat this team for the fourth and fifth times.”
“I teach our players that when games are over, they’re ancient history,” Mainieri added. “They don’t have any effect on the next game.”
First baseman Nick Coomes is continuing to deal with the sprained left thumb that kept him out of the last two games of the Baton Rouge Regional.
Coomes didn’t practice Tuesday, Mainieri said, but the plan is for him to attempt gripping and swinging a bat Wednesday after the additional day off to recover.
“We’ll see how he feels tomorrow when he swings a bat again,” he said.
MUM ON PITCHING
Just like last week, Mainieri is playing his cards close to the vest when it comes to his pitching plans.
The coach declined to divulge his starting rotation for the Baton Rouge Super Regional on Tuesday, opting to wait until Friday before making an announcement.
For what it’s worth, LSU stuck with a weekend rotation of Alex Lange, Jared Poche’ and Eric Walker (in that order) throughout the regular season. Poche’ pitched first in the regional, followed by Lange and Walker.