Last Modified: Sunday, June 16, 2013 7:25 PM
OMAHA, Neb. — LSU second baseman JaCoby Jones was back on the practice field after an illness sidelined him for a day, but head coach Paul Mainieri limited his work in preparation for tonight’s College World Series opener against UCLA.
Jones took batting practice and some ground balls in limited work due to the flu-like symptoms that caused him to miss the workout Friday.
“I think he’s OK,” Mainieri said. “It was good he was able to come out here today. I just didn’t want to go three or four days without doing anything.
“Let’s hope it just keeps moving in the direction of him getting better. I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that he’s going to be able to play because I don’t know how he’s going to feel (Sunday), but it’s a good sign that he was able to come back out today.”
Jones was more positive.
“I’m 100 percent good-to-go,” Jones said. “I feel fine. I just wanted to come back out today and get my timing down.”
• CHIP OFF THE OL’ SKIP: Mainieri could be the first winner of college baseball’s Skip Bertman Award.
Named for LSU’s legendary coach who won five national championships, it will be presented annually by the College Baseball Hall of Fame to its national coach of the year.
Mainieri knew the award was in the works to honor Bertman.
“I was kind of anxiously awaiting for them to announce that this award was going to be named for Skip,” he said. “Then I find out, I guess this morning, that I’m a finalist for it. Wow, what an honor.”
But Mainieri said he was more impressed with Bertman’s honor of having the award named after him.
“What another capper to a phenomenal career to have that,” he said “It demonstrates your legacy. I think he’s the greatest coach in the history of the game.”
The other four finalists are Indiana’s Tracy Smith, who led his team to its first-ever CWS appearance; Scott Brosius of Division III Linfield College; Mike Dickson of Junior College Division III Gloucester County College; Patrick McCarty of NAIA Faulkner University.
“It would be kind of a neat thing, the first one ever. But I’m not going to lose any sleep. I’m just honored they’d have me as a finalist,” Mainieri said. “The only award I want is that big (national championship) trophy to hold up at the end of the year.”
• MORE AWARDS: Also Saturday, freshman Alex Bregman was named a finalist for Brooks Wallace Award, which goes to the nation’s top shortstop, and tonight’s starting pitcher Aaron Nola was named one of three finalists for the National Pitcher of the Year award.
The other shortstop finalist are Stephen F. Austin’s Hunter Dozier and Trea Turner of North Carolina State.
“If Bregman doesn’t win the shortstop award there ought to be an investigation,” Mainieri said.
The other two pitching finalists are or could become very familiar to the Tigers — UCLA closer David Berg and Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray.
• COMMON OPPONENT: LSU and UCLA both played Oklahoma — their only common opponent — and both ran into Gray, the third overall pick in the recent Major League draft.
Nola outdueled Gray 2-0 in last week’s super regional by pitching a two-hit shutout while the Tigers got to Gray for two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
UCLA faced him on March 9 in Los Angeles, with Gray shutting out the Bruins 4-0 on five hits. The Bruins’ No. 2 starter, Nick Vander Tuig, took the loss, giving up six hits in 6 2/3 innings.
• CLOSING THE DEAL: LSU closer Chris Cotton was named third-team All-American Saturday by the website Perfect Game.
That makes two All-American closers in the game, along with UCLA’s Berg.
Berg is the first-team All-American closer and the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, and he leads the nation with minuscule 0.88 ERA. He is 7-0 with 21 saves.
He and Cotton have something else in common: both began their careers as lightly heralded walk-ons.
“I think that’s good,” said the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Cotton. “It’s hanging in there. He’s not the biggest either (6-0, 190).”
• SERIES: The Tigers and Bruins have met four times, all but one in the postseason, with LSU winning three of the four. UCLA went to Baton Rouge for the 2000 super regional, with the Tigers sweeping the series 8-2 and 14-8. LSU went to UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium for the 2010 Los Angeles Regional.
After beating UC Irvine 11-10 to open the regional, LSU lost to top seed UCLA 6-3 in its second game and was later eliminated by UC Irvine.
The first meeting was in 1988 in the New Orleans Superdome, a 7-1 LSU victory in what was known as the Busch Challenge.
• REGULARS: LSU is making its 16th CWS appearance. UCLA is making its fifth, but is in Omaha for the third time in the last four years.
• IN THE CARDS: UCLA catcher Shane Zeile is the son of former St. Louis Cardinals catcher Todd Zeile, who also played at UCLA. North Carolina State pitching coach Tom Holliday is the father of Cardinals star Matt Holliday.