They say never to make yourself the story and to never involve yourself with the lede, but in all my years of watching (and covering) LSU baseball, I have never seen the team looser than they were in today’s practice.
LSU played three man ball, a hybrid batting and fielding practice game that’s as much about having fun as it is getting good hacks and reps in the field. Paul Mainieri wasn’t just observing the player’s jokes and offering his own comments, he was leading the charge in addition to providing his own play by play of the competition.
When Josh Smith’s team won the game, he lead a mock, safety dogpile. The players reflected this attitude in their post-game press conference.
"Opening Day doesn't hit you until you step on the field and the first pitch is made. Tomorrow will probably be the same,” senior right fielder Greg Deichmann said. "As soon as you step on campus coach Mainieri tells you that you're gonna be playing under pressure. So you get used to it."
“You have to realize that it's still just a game,” second baseman Cole Freeman said. “It's an intense game, but you still have to catch and throw the ball well.”
“We are ready to go,” Shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “We are not tight. We are a veteran and mature team. We have played in big games up to this point. Now, every game that you get to play is the biggest game of the year. Now every game or backs are up against a wall. It’s probably good for us.”
He then summed it up it in so many words.
“We embrace the pressure. We're used to it. This is my last opportunity to win it."
“I think our team now knows how to handle the big game,” Maineri said. “They're ultra confident.”
Before the interview session began, it was announced that Jared Poché would be the game one starter. Mainieri’s reasoning being that if LSU sweeps the regional, that makes an entire week that Eric Walker receives no work, and if they do the same in the Super Regionals, it makes two.
It also gives Poché an opportunity to tie the LSU career wins record, something that weighed heavy on both players and media’s minds. Mainieri made it a point to mention that he checked with tomorrow’s official scorer to determine the amount of innings Jared Poché needs to throw in order to be in line for a victory if LSU has the game in control.
"It's a team achievement, I couldn't do anything without the defense behind me,” Poché said of his potential record tying, a sentiment that his fielders echoed.
“All we can do is play our best defense behind him,” Deichmann said. “It doesn't matter who we throw, we know we're gonna get a good outing out of them but we have to support them all the same.”
‘We're all getting hot down the stretch at the same time, Deichmann said. “That makes for a good postseason run hopefully.”
Over the past few years, rain has become synonymous with the Baton Rouge Regional. A source close to LSU facilities said that while rain is in the forecast for this weekend, LSU is approaching it on an hour by hour basis rather than on a overall outlook approach. While there are considerable rain chances through out the day, there isn’t anything high enough to warrant any moves before that hour comes around and the percentages themselves are wildly fluctuating.