Video: Mainieri talking about freshman Jared Poche getting the starting nod Friday.
LSU and Mississippi State’s baseball rivalry didn’t need extra fuel. But it got it last season, when State pitcher Kendall Graveman threw a high fastball toward Mason Katz’s head.
The scene unfolded in the second inning of the series finale between the two last season in Starkville. LSU won the series, the seventh straight series win for the Tigers over the Bulldogs.
Here’s a GIF of the pitch. Coach Paul Mainieri, afterward, told reporters that Graveman should have been tossed from the game. Graveman claimed that he was only trying to set the tempo for Sunday’s game after LSU won the first two.
On Thursday, a day before LSU and State renew their rivalry at Alex Box, Mainieri and players talked about this rivalry and last season’s incident.
- The LSU-Mississippi State rivalry during the Skip Bertman and Ron Polk days “grew baseball,” Mainieri said. “I think it’s a great rivalry. I think it’s one of those rivalries that has done an awful lot for college baseball,” he said. “That rivalry certainly grew baseball in the SEC. Made the other schools get with it. You see all of these great facilities, great coaches and great players. That’s why it’s become the best league in the country. I really believe you have to credit the Mississippi State-LSU rivalry for all that’s happened.”
- Mainieri said him and State coach John Cohen talked about the Katz-Graveman incident over the summer. Cohen called Mainieri about something else and the two chatted about the issue: “That was an isolated incident. John and I talked in the summer, and I really believe it’s behind us. We don’t really have any hard feelings about it … I would rather not dwell on an incident like that. I’d expect it to be a very clean, hard-fought weekend.”
- Later, Mainieri added this: “It’s over. At the time, I was upset. Didn’t think Katz deserved that. It’s over.”
- Players says they’ve forgotten, too. Said outfielder Sean McMullen: “It’s something I’ve put in the past. Not sure how the fans feel about it or how some of the former players do. This is a new team we’re playing, just like we’re a new team. I know there’s a rivalry and people look forward to seeing Mississippi State verse LSU, but I’m just treating it as another SEC series.”
- Starting pitcher Jared Poche, though a freshman, has heard about the rivalry and the incident last season: “I heard a little bit about that. It’s not going to affect this year. It’s over, in the past.”
Now to some pitching rotation moves by both teams:
- LSU will start Poche on Friday instead of ace Aaron Nola. Mainieri wants to give Nola the usual six days of rest before a start. Nola threw 100-plus pitches in Game 1 against Florida last Saturday. LSU-UF were rained out Friday night.
- Mississippi State sent its lineup to LSU on Thursday: Preston Brown (Friday), Ross Mitchell (Saturday) and TBA (Sunday). LSU sent its lineup to Mississippi State on Thursday night with Nola going Saturday instead of Friday. State then changed its lineup Friday morning, citing a shoulder injury to Brown.
- Here’s Mainieri’s opening comments about the pitching rotations:
Felt that it was important to keep Nola, for his sake, on a regular rotation of six days rest so he does his normal routine and prep work for each weekend. Since he had to get moved to Saturday, I just felt like giving him the regular rest, let him go Saturday night and have Jared come back early. He only threw 67 pitches I think (against Florida).
After the game last night, I went in and had an email from (sports information director) Bill (Franques) announcing Mississippi State’s rotation, and their normal rotation they had their No. 1 guy going on Saturday, Ross Mitchell. So I liked the matchup. I wanted to match Nola up against Mitchell.
After I sent the rotation to Bill, Mississippi State changed the rotation. Now Mitchell’s throwing on Friday night. It’s OK. They’re saying that their typical Friday night starter has some shoulder problems, Brown. They’ve announced Mitchell for Friday and Fitts for Saturday and they’re TBA for Sunday as well. I’m not really overly worried about the matchups. Reason I did was simply because I wanted to make sure to keep Aaron fully healthy.
On to other news …
- Starting pitcher Kyle Bouman remains questionable for the weekend series against the Bulldogs as he recovers from a badly sprained ankle. LSU is TBA on its Sunday starter. The Tigers won’t announce a starter until after Saturday’s game, Mainieri said. Mainieri said Bouman had a noticeable limp when he trotted out to the mound to pitch to one batter during Wednesday’s win over McNeese State.
- The weather forecast for this weekend is not good. Mainieri said he wants to avoid playing a doubleheader.