Surprisingly, LSU is in the hole after going up 2-0 in the Baton Rouge Regional. In one game, the Tigers went from wielder-of-the-big-stick to fighting for their lives on their own home turf. The Tigers lost to Rice 10-6 Monday night as the Owls finished off their Monday with 25 runs scored in two games securing a winner-take-all game seven on foreign soil Tuesday afternoon.
The question that remains after three games in the Baton Rouge Regional for the Tigers is, who will start game 7?
There’s two guys I can think of: One, a “known quantity” guy. An established pitcher. And another, a newcomer who has decent numbers from a surmised lesser baseball market. One is Jared Poche and the other is John Valek.
Which one of these is which?
One pitcher goes on a four start streak where he allows four or more earned runs each outing, has one win, one loss and two no-decisions. (In all, two wins and two losses for LSU) The other has a two game streak where he allows 7 earned runs over a combined 3 and 2/3 innings—he’s never allowed more than four ER in any one outing. The second pitcher in question is benched from his weekend starting role after his consecutive down-cycle. While the first pitcher is allowed to continue to work through his rough patch. Ultimately, it is the first pitcher’s history with the club that carries his status—one that is confirmed when he works through the yips to return to form. The other is not allowed the same patience and thus languishes.
By now you know that the second pitcher is John Valek, whose consecutive starts led to Tiger losses against Mississippi State and Ole Miss (a no-decision in the first game, a loss in the second) in Mid-April. Since those two starts, Valek has not seen much spotlight in meaningful competition. He did get to start against Notre Dame and Northwestern State—both mid-week LSU victories—but he hasn’t regained his status since the Tigers brought on Caleb Gilbert to the Sunday starting role. Gilbert has since started five games, including two against top-ranked Florida and one last night against Rice. Those five games have resulted in three Tiger losses and two wins. Gilbert has gotten through the fifth inning in only two of those games—his best outing coming against Florida in the SEC tournament semifinal, a 1-0 loss. (Sometimes there’s nothing you can do when the Tiger bats turn their back on you)
The first pitcher, of course, is Jared Poche. And, while I wouldn’t be silly enough to question Poche’s undeniable talent, resiliency and skill, I would certainly be willing to second-guess the way in which LSU’s coaches have handled the latter part of Valek’s senior season—one he ultimately handed to the best program in the country with the hopes of making the most of his talents and LSU’s ability to promote his arm to the major leagues.
Short of questioning the coaches, though, I would make this plea with LSU Baseball…please, PLEASE start John Valek tomorrow against Rice. Please. Begging here.
I have no doubt that, just as you trusted John Valek to pitch the final game of every series from the start of this year until deep into the SEC schedule, you should again hand the ball to the guy from Akron who has a talent for winning games. Like Poche, his stuff may not be as ridiculous as a Lange or a Nola or a McDonald or whomever, but, he pitches to win. He’s not a shutdown flamethrower. He’s not even a sneaky Chris Cotton who gets you with location and velocity whiplash. He’s a guy who has a knack for winning the day for his squad. I’ve come to strangely believe that about this guy. Partially because I believe it of myself and I feel a connection with a kid who’s recently journeyed south from a northern school.
If nothing else, take a good look at the season statistics below to evaluate the usual suspects who may be in the running to take the reins tomorrow.
And remember, Poche is certainly the better pitcher amongst Valek and he; but Poche will be needed Friday/Saturday or Sunday if the Tigers are to move on.
And how long (or how far) can the Tigers go by asking Poche to go on three days’ rest repeatedly?
We may not have a weekend to worry about if we don’t win tomorrow, but what will tomorrow matter if we are ill-equipped to turn tomorrow into a championship?
- Poche 3.47 16 starts 8-4 .286 BAA 90.2 IP 1.49 WHIP
- Threw 92 pitches last Friday
- Will be needed if Tigers advance either Saturday or Sunday—3 or 4 days rest.
- Valek 4.06 13 starts 6-2 .286 BAA 62 IP 1.27 WHIP
- Threw 3 pitches last night
- Threw 17 pitches last friday
- Latz 2.84 2 starts 0-1 .227 BAA 6.1 IP 1.15 WHIP
- Threw 13 pitches last Friday
- Bugg 3.55 0 starts 1-2 .210 BAA 38 IP 1.21 WHIP
- Has not pitched this weekend
- Reynolds 4.15 0 starts 3-0 .256 BAA 34.2 IP 1.29 WHIP
- Threw 11 pitches last Friday
- C. Gilbert 4.64 4 starts 4-4 .302 BAA 42 IP 1.71 WHIP
- Threw 30 pitches last night
- Bain 4.61 2 starts 4-0 .250 BAA 27.1 IP 1.37 WHIP
- Threw 15 pitches last night
- R. Smith 6.86 1 start 2-0 .269 BAA 19.2 IP 1.67 WHIP
- Threw 34 pitches last night