Alex Lange was the first-round draft choice of the Chicago Cubs last week.
One day later, Jared Poche was the ninth-round pick of the Oakland A’s. Although not possessing the same talent as Lange, Poche has been outstanding for LSU in the College World Series.
Last Saturday, Poche threw 2.2 innings of scoreless relief behind Lange and was the winning pitcher when the Tigers rallied for a 5-4 victory against Florida State.
On Wednesday night, Poche was the main reason LSU kept its season alive. Poche pitched into the ninth inning as the Tigers eliminated the Seminoles 7-4.
Everyone knows by now Poche is the winningest pitcher in LSU history. By posting these two victories against Florida State, Poche moved ahead of Scott Schultz on the school’s list for wins. Poche has won 39 games – more than any other Division I pitcher since Arizona State’s Mike Leake from 2007-09.
Poche, the senior lefthander from Lutcher (La.) High School, did the job in securing his 12th victory of the year. More importantly, Poche gave the Tigers a clutch performance on the mound in a win-or-go-home situation.
Now, the spotlight shifts to Lange. In his first CWS start six days ago against the Seminoles, Lange was average at best. He allowed four runs in six innings. At least Lange kept his team in the game as LSU trailed only by a 4-3 score when Poche replaced him.
But, mediocrity from Lange will not get the job done if the Tigers are going to knock off No. 1 national seed Oregon State on Friday (2 p.m. Central/ESPN). The Beavers, who have won 23 games in a row, poured it on LSU during their 13-1 victory Monday night.
The time is now for Lange to pitch like a first-round draft choice on college baseball’s biggest stage. Lange has delivered this type of performance already this season – shutting out Auburn and then Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
In starts against Florida and Texas A&M – two CWS teams, Lange gave up just a combined three runs in 16 innings. Lange lost both games because his teammates gave him zero offensive support. But, that’s not Lange’s area. His responsibility is to hold Oregon State to a low run total.
Lange has already provided the Tigers such an outing in the College World Series. Two years ago, the freshman Lange went nine innings in LSU’s 5-3 elimination-game victory against Fullerton State. Lange must match the grit displayed by Poche a couple of nights ago.
It is certainly time for Lange to have one of his vintage starts. In three NCAA tournament outings this month, Lange has yielded 12 runs in 19.2 innings – far from sparkling numbers. LSU needs to see the Lange, who blanked a hard-hitting Kentucky team back on May 25.
Lange can become the seventh Tigers pitcher to win a game in two College World Series. The other six pitchers are Paul Byrd, Mike Sirotka, Brett Laxton, Patrick Coogan, Doug Thompson and Louis Coleman. All but Coogan and Thompson pitched in the big leagues. None of the six was drafted in the first round.
In fact, Lange is only the fifth LSU starting pitcher to be selected in the first round of the major league baseball draft. The other four drafted starters are Ben McDonald, Kurt Ainsworth, Kevin Gausman and Aaron Nola. Lange has done something none of the other four accomplished – win a game in Omaha.
LSU finds itself in the CWS Final Four for the first time since 2009 when it won the national title. To be one of the final two teams, the Tigers must defeat Oregon State twice – Friday and Saturday. This Beavers squad has lost only four games all year, so LSU has its work cut out for it.
The Tigers have beaten a team twice to advance in a regional and in a super-regional series. In six regionals, LSU beat a team twice to move along in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers also won two super-regional series in which they beat the opponent twice after a first-game defeat.
But, LSU has not accomplished this feat in the College World Series. The Tigers have only been in this situation two other times – 1989 and 1990. In both years, LSU was beaten in the first game – 12-7 by Texas in 1989 and 14-3 by Oklahoma State.
There is always a first time and it will be up to Lange to help the Tigers achieve that first step Friday afternoon.
Here are the results in the NCAA tournament when LSU had to beat a team in back-to-back games to advance to the next round.
1989 College Station Regional
LSU beat Texas A&M 13-5 and 5-4 to advance to the College World Series.
1989 College World Series
LSU lost to Texas 12-7 in the first game.
1990 Baton Rouge Regional
LSU beat Southern California 5-4 and 7-6 to advance to the College World Series
1990 College World Series
LSU lost to Oklahoma State 14-3 in the first game.
1993 Baton Rouge Regional
LSU beat South Alabama 11-4 and 9-4 to advance to the College World Series.
1997 Baton Rouge Regional
LSU beat South Alabama 14-4 and 15-4 to advance to the College World Series.
1999 Baton Rouge Regional
LSU beat East Carolina 12-10 and 9-0 to advance to the super regionals.
1999 Tuscaloosa Super Regional
LSU lost to Alabama 13-5 in the first game.
2002 Baton Rouge Regional
LSU beat UL-Lafayette 12-2 and 12-2 to advance to the super regionals.
2002 Houston Super Regional
LSU lost to Rice 3-0 in the first game.
2003 Baton Rouge Super Regional
LSU beat Baylor 6-5 and 20-5 to advance to the College World Series.
2005 Baton Rouge Regional
LSU lost to Rice 5-4 in the first game.
2008 Baton Rouge Super Regional
LSU beat Cal Irvine 9-7 and 21-7 to advance to the College World Series
2016 Baton Rouge Super Regional
LSU lost to Coastal Carolina 4-3 in the first game.