By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
OMAHA, Neb. — The sun came up in Omaha on Tuesday morning and LSU is still alive in the College World Series.
That’s the optimistic message LSU coach Paul Mainieri imparted to his team in the afterglow of a 13-1 drubbing at the hands of Oregon State.
“Life is good,” the coach joked to reporters before the team practiced in Bellevue on Tuesday afternoon. “The message to the team is what I tell them almost every day: don’t look too far ahead and don’t look behind. Just look at the most immediate challenge.”
That’d be a Florida State club that staved off elimination Monday.
One cause for optimism: with LSU’s back pressed firmly against the wall, Mainieri will hand the ball to the winningest pitcher in the program’s decorated history with a chance to pitch the Tigers into the sport’s final four.
“If you asked me, of all the pitchers I’ve ever coached, who’d I’d rather turn to after a tough outing, it’d be Jared Poche’,” Mainieri said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in that young man.”
Poche’ came out of the bullpen to fire 2.2 innings of brilliant relief as LSU rallied to win 5-4 against the same Florida State club he’ll face in an elimination game on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
That relief outing earned Poche’ career victory No. 38, tying Scott Schultz for the all-time LSU record. If he gets No. 39, it’ll mean LSU lives to fight another day and gets another crack at Oregon State. He’s 11-3 this season with a 3.33 ERA in 100 innings, having struck out 69 and walked 33.
“At this point it’s no surprises,” Poche’ said. “I think whoever executes is going to come out on top.”
LSU will ride Poche’ for as long as it can, Mainieri said, particularly in light of Tuesday’s news that Caleb Gilbert will take the place of Eric Walker in the starting rotation.
The Southpaw will be allotted his full complement of pitches despite working in relief on Saturday. He threw just 30 pitches in that outing, and will actually have an extra day of rest than if he’d thrown his customary bullpen session one day later.
Command will be paramount.
Poche’, who battled his control in two NCAA Tournament starts, didn’t issue a walk against Florida State on Saturday. The Seminoles lead the nation in walks and managed to chase Alex Lange from the game with an elevated pitch count having surrendered four runs in six-plus innings.
It’s an ugly brand of baseball Florida State plays, waiting out pitchers and playing for the three-run homer.
The guys who’ll be playing behind the seasoned lefty professed all the faith in the world in his ability to quiet the Seminoles again.
“Who else would you rather have than Jared Poche’ in a situation like this?” shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “Your back is against the wall in an elimination game and you can turn to the program’s winningest pitcher and a senior leader.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in him and this seems to be when he’s at his best.”
Florida State hasn’t named its starter yet, but FSU coach Mike Martin said it’ll be one of two sophomore right handers: Andrew Karp (2-3, 4.87 ERA, 61.0 IP, 17 BB, 63 SO) or Cole Sands (6-3, 5.05 ERA, 82.0 IP, 29 BB, 72 SO).
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