Two weeks ago, LSU coach Paul Mainieri held back pitcher Aaron Nola so he could be matched against premier Arkansas pitcher Ryne Stanek in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Mainieri is setting up another top-flight pitching matchup Friday night in the opening game of the Baton Rouge super-regional series between his Tigers and Oklahoma at The Box.
Nola will be on the mound for a series opener in the first time in more than a month. His pitching opponent will be Jonathan Gray, who could be the first player selected in the major league baseball draft Thursday night.
"I am going to have the best seat in the house to watch," Mainieri said. "Gray is going to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. A lot of people think he is the best pitcher in the country. Next year, Aaron has a chance to be right up there (in the draft).
"Going with Aaron gives us the best chance to win. They'll go toe-to-toe and duke it out. If Aaron pitches the way he can, it will be a heckuva game."
Gray, who tested positive for the drug Adderall (pre-major league draft screening), will not have his eligibility affected. A junior college transfer, Gray has a 10-2 record and a 1.59 earned run average. The Sooners, who won the Big XII Conference tournament, have a solid No. 2 hurler in Dillon Overton.
"Gray throws hard and has a good slider," Mainieri said. "When he throws his slider for strikes, he is tough. But, we had a pretty good pitcher last year (Kevin Gausman) and he lost (in the super-regional). We have to take advantage of the scoring opportunities we get. You hope to score three to five runs.
"Overton has a chance to go late in the first round or be a sandwich pick. Overton was hurt for a while. When Oklahoma got him back, they played better. Their staff reminds me of the Arkansas staff."
Mainieri is undecided about his pitching plans after the first game. There are three candidates - Ryan Eades, the reinstated Cody Glenn and Brent Bonvillain.
"It's TBA and TBA after Nola," Mainieri said. "I may say that after the game Friday too. A lot depends upon how Cody Glenn looks in the pen this week, how Ryan Eades looks in the pen and how Brent Bonvillain bounces back from his longest outing of the season."
Mainieri went into some detail regarding Glenn's suspension which began last Thursday. Following a team vote, Glenn was reinstated to the team Monday.
"I am not going to talk about what (Glenn did)," Mainieri said. "It was a team rule. He didn't hurt anybody. He just screwed up. The team concurred with the suspension when I told them. I told the team that he let you guys down. This is their team, not mine. I'll do whatever they want me to do.
"They had three choices - reinstate him, not reinstate him or leave it up to the coaches. Five players voted to leave it up to the coaches. The rest voted to reinstate him. He gave a passionate talk to the team. The players were ready to forgive him and move on."
Sean McMullen, who injured a hamstring Saturday against Sam Houston State, is still not available. Mainieri said that McMullen will be on the 27-man super-regional roster. Pitcher Hunter Newman has been sent off to summer-league baseball.
"I am hoping to have Sean back," Mainieri said. "He is a big key for us. He is still not running, but we have two more days. I was hoping he would be better by now. Chris Sciambra is still sick. I hope he'll be better in a couple of days.
"Mark Laird is back and Cody Glenn is back. It feels good to have the team almost back to full strength. There are always going to be issues in a year. The matter is how many issues you have and how you handle them."
Here is information regarding the Baton Rouge super-regional series between Oklahoma and LSU. The winner of the Baton Rouge super-regional series will play the winner of the Fullerton super-regional series between UCLA and Fullerton State in a first-round game of the College World Series.
BATON ROUGE SUPER-REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Friday, June 7
Oklahoma vs. LSU, 6 p.m.
Saturday, June 8
Oklahoma vs. LSU, 6 p.m.
Sunday, June 9
Oklahoma vs. LSU, 6 p.m. (if necessary)
LSU (Seed No. 1) - 55-9, 23-7 in SEC
Baton Rouge regional champion, SEC tournament champion, SEC West champion
Record against teams in NCAA tournament: 22-8
Record against teams in super-regionals: 4-3
Super-regional series appearances/titles: 10/5 (last title coming in 2009)
Team batting average: .307
Team earned run average: 2.47
Team fielding percentage: .980
Alex Bregman, Fr., SS -- .385 BA, 6 HR, 52 RBI
Mason Katz, Sr., 1B -- .378, 15 HR, 68 RBI
Raph Rhymes, Sr., OF -- .340, 4 HR, 45 RBI
Christian Ibarra, Jr., 3B -- .325, 6 HR, 39 RBI
Mark Laird, Fr., OF -- .287, 0 HR, 17 RBI
Aaron Nola, So., RH - 11-0, 1.82 ERA
Ryan Eades, Jr., RH - 8-1, 2.81 ERA
Cody Glenn, So., LH - 7-2, 2.41 ERA
Chris Cotton, Sr., LH - 4-1, 16 saves
Oklahoma (Seed No. 2) - 43-19, 13-11 in Big XII
Blacksburg regional champion, Big XII tournament champion
Record against teams in NCAA tournament: 8-4
Record against teams in super-regionals: 3-2
Super-regional series appearances/titles: 4/1 (last title coming in 2010)
Team batting average: .286
Team earned run average: 2.94
Team fielding percentage: .972
Matt Oberste, Jr., 1B -- .376 BA, 11 HR, 60 RBI
Max White, Sr., OF -- .313, 3 HR, 32 RBI
Craig Aikin, Fr., OF -- .291, 0 HR, 23 RBI
Hector Lorenzana, Jr., 2B -- .279, 2 HR, 42 RBI
Jack Mayfield, Sr., SS -- .260, 7 HR, 35 RBI
Jonathan Gray, Jr., RH - 10-2, 1.59 ERA
Dillon Overton, Jr., LH - 9-2, 2.91 ERA
Jake Fisher, Sr., LH - 3-2, 2.53 ERA
Jacob Evans, Fr., LH - 7-2, 9 saves