By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
A two-and-a-half-hour rain delay forced Alex Lange to wait even longer before getting a crack at putting the shortest outing of his decorated collegiate career behind him.
Suffice to say, the ace showed no ill-effects. In fact, rain delays have been downright good to him. What followed felt eerily similiar to Lange’s complete game 12-strikeout shutout of UNC-Wilmington in the 2015 Baton Rouge Regional.
Lange fired eight shutout innings of two-hit ball in a dominant return to form. The right hander faced the minimum through seven razor-sharp innings and struck out nine without issuing a walk.
Antoine Duplantis and Greg Deichmann, the third and fourth hitters in LSU’s reshuffled lineup, drove in all six runs as the Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak with a 6-1 defeat of Wichita State at Alex Box Stadium late Friday night.
“There was never any doubt about Lange coming out tonight and reestablishing himself the way that we know he can throw,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He’s as mentally tough as anybody. His confidence doesn’t fluctuate depending on what he did the outing before, the pitch before or the inning before. He’s just the consummate winner.”
Lange waited out the length delay in the training room in an attempt to stay loose. With each lighting strike, first pitch unofficially moved back another 30 minutes, and Lange restarted his pre-start routine.
“It happened against Wilmington, so I was kind of having flash backs to that game,” Lange said of waiting out delay. “I was just trying to stay loose. Rain delays have been pretty good to me.”
There was no sign of the self-described “atrocious” fastball command that caused Lange’s undoing in Houston. He had pinpoint command of his fastball, which sat at 92-94 mph throughout the game, and had both his get-me-over and swing-and-miss curveballs working. Effective changeups also helped to speed up his fastball.
Lange retired the first 12 men he faced with six strikeouts. Travis Young led off the fifth inning with a single up the middle, the first baserunner of the night against Lange, but was erased when a comebacker began a 1-6-3 double play.
Despite the lengthy delay, LSU jumped ahead early thanks to a reshuffled top third of the lineup.
Kramer Robertson, scuffling of late, led off the game with a single through the left side. After a wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt by Cole Freeman, Antoine Duplantis put the Tigers ahead with a RBI double down the right-field line.
“I did it because I wanted Kramer to go up to bat first without having guys in scoring position,” Mainieri said of the lineup shuffle, which may be a temporary change. “I don’t think he’s been pressing, but I think they’ve been pitching him different … I just wanted him to revert back to what he did at the beginning of last year when he went deep into counts and battled the pitcher.”
Two innings later, Freeman doubled down the third-base line and scored on Duplantis’ single to shallow left. It took a gutsy send by third base coach Nolan Cain, but Freeman slid into home just ahead of the tag. Greg Deichmann followed with an RBI single to left that extended his hitting streak to 10 games.
The top four stayed hot the next time through the order. Opposite field singles from Freeman and Duplantis set the table, and Deichmann unloaded on an inside fastball for a three-run home run, his sixth of the season. His four RBI matched a career high.
Deichmann’s prolific blast sliced through the same wind that robbed Wichita State of a home run in the first inning. The ball registered an exit velocity of 109 mph and traveled an estimated 421 feet through a stiff gust.
“Greg showed me up a little bit,” Robertson smiled. “(My flyout to center in the fifth) was as good as I could hit a ball, and Greg comes up a few batters later and hits one out … That made me feel like a little boy.”
The quartet of Robertson, Freeman, Duplantis and Deichmann finished the contest 8-for-16 with two doubles, a home run. The rest of LSU’s lineup finished the night hitless.
Wichita State broke the shutout with a two-out RBI single off Todd Peterson in the ninth inning.
– LSU announced the Saturday’s game two between LSU and Wichita State has been moved up to 1 p.m. due to rain in the forecast for later in the day. First pitch was originally set for 6:30 p.m.
– The school also announced that LSU will host Louisiana College on Tuesday night (March 14) as a make-up to replace the San Diego game that got rained out. Reminder to use Game 9 tickets for that game.