Sophomore fires 1-hit ball to clinch series
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Alex Lange raced out of the LSU dugout after Friday night’s 12-inning thriller to surprise walk-off hero Jordan Romero with a celebratory shaving cream pie to the face.
Some 14 hours later, the All-American took the mound for his own season debut and ensured no such theatrics would be required in Saturday’s middle game with Cincinnati at Alex Box Stadium.
Using a 93-94 mph fastball to set up a devastating curveball, Lange fanned nine — eight by way of the breaking ball — the through 6.2 dominant innings of one-hit shutout ball and Greg Deichmann launched his first career home run as LSU (2-0) blanked Cincinnati (0-2) 4-0 to secure a series victory.
“His breaking ball is always working,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I don’t remember a day when Alex Lange’s breaking ball wasn’t working. I thought Alex was obviously the story of the game. To be honest with you, we kind of overpowered them today with the three arms we threw at them.”
“I wouldn’t say it was easier, but it was a little bit more chill,” Beau Jordan said of Saturday’s matinee compared to the wild atmosphere of playing an extra-innings thriller on Opening Night.
A lot of that has to do with the hurler who ran his collegiate career record to a perfect 13-0.
“His breaking ball is always working.” – LSU coach Paul Mainieri on Alex Lange
The lone Bearcat base hit came on a first-inning single by Devin Wenzel, who Lange promtly picked off to end the opening frame. He issued three walks — all on full counts — but Cincinnati could muster only three runners in scoring position all afternoon.
Lange found himself in a tight spot in the second inning, after an error by Trey Dawson at shortstop and a walk put two men on with one out, but he went to his trusty curveball to register back-to-back strikeouts (first looking, then swinging) to defuse the threat in emphatic fashion.
“Anytime I can get a swing on a breaking ball in the dirt I’m pretty happy,” Lange said. “They kept chasing it so we kept going back to it. It was a good pitch.”
Jake Fraley jump started the LSU offense early. Batting with nobody on and two outs, the junior center fielder rifled a two-strike offering from starter Mitch Patishall (0-1) off the base of the right field wall for a triple. One batter later he came home with the game’s first run on a wild pitch.
Deichmann, dropped to seventh in the order, doubled the lead in the second when he dropped the barrel on a low inside changeup from Patishall and golfed it in the back row of the right field grandstands.
The first hit of the sophomore slugger’s collegiate felt like weight lifted off his shoulders.
“I wasn’t pressing,” Deichmann began, before reconsidering. “Well, in the back of my mind, maybe a little bit. Coming off 10 at-bats last year and going 0-for-3 in the debut. There was a little pressing, but I just tried to relax.”
LSU was able to tack on two more runs in the fifth inning. Kramer Robertson and Antoine Duplantis led off the frame with a walk and single, respectively, to set the table for a run-scoring sacrifice fly from Beau Jordan followed by an RBI single from his twin brother. Bryce.
Mainieri lifted Lange with a man on third and two outs in the seventh, but true freshman Caleb Gilbert came on in relief and struck out Treg Haberkorn to end the threat. Gilbert and Jesse Stallings divided up the game’s final seven outs to preserve the shutout.
“I thought it was kind of a business-like performance today,” Mainieri said. “It wasn’t as exciting as last night, thank goodness. But when a guy like Lange pitches and the other team doesn’t score or get but a couple of hits, it’s bound to be a bit of a slow type of game.”
“I like ’em that way every once in a while.”
LSU will go for the sweep Sunday with lefty John Valek III taking the mound. First pitch scheduled for noon at the Box.
– While most of the attention focused on Lange’s dominance on the mound, all the Tiger ace wanted to talk about was his catcher’s performance behind the dish. Lange and Mainieri credited Mike Papierski’s blocking ability as being the factor that enabled Lange to be aggressive with his curveball and have no fear of bouncing it to generate swings and missed. “Pap was working really hard today,” Lange said. “He did an excellent job back there blocking everything, so that just gave me the confidence to really get through it and finish pitches off. Hats off to Pap. He worked really hard today.”
– Third baseman Cole Freeman went 2-for-3 with a double, including his first career LSU hit. He also turned in a second consecutive error-free performance at the hot corner, a position he’d never played before this season.
Game 3 (Sunday at 12 p.m.)
LSU – Sr. LHP Jon Valek III (6-6, 3.25 ERA, 99.2 IP, 26 BB, 62 SO in 2015 at the University of Akron)
UC – TBA