Baton Rouge Super Regional begins Saturday at 8 p.m.
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Coastal Carolina rolls into Baton Rouge having belted 91 home runs this season, second-most in the nation behind only Mercer. Four of their nine everyday players have at least 15 home runs.
That Gorilla Ball-style numbers are an attention grabber in an age of toned-down bats when power can be tough to come by.
Just pardon Alex Lange if he’s not rushing to change his game based on a stat sheet or a scouting report.
“I’m not too worried about the home runs,” Lange said. “I’m not pitching timid to them. I don’t care if I’m pitching to Alex Rodriguez. I’m going to pitch to my game plan.”
As expected, Paul Mainieri tapped his sophomore ace to take the ball Saturday when LSU and Coastal Carolina open up the best-of-three Baton Rouge Super Regional at 8 p.m.
Lange (8-3, 3.46 ERA), who outlasted a 56-miniute rain delay to finish off eight-plus strong innings against Rice in a win Sunday night, remains confident in his trusty right arm heading into what all has the makings of a classic power-versus-power matchup.
“You have to be who you are,” Mainieri said. “He’s not a finesse pitcher. He’s a power pitcher. He’s an aggressive, attacking pitcher, and that’s what he’s going to do. It’s going to be a great matchup because that’s the kind of hitters they are.”
Coastal Carolina’s reputation for being aggressive early in the count — Mainieri compared them to the UL-Lafayette club LSU swept in the super regional last season — may mean pitching backward in a sense, Lange said, throwing more first-pitch curveballs and changeups, but that doesn’t mean being any less aggressive in attacking the zone.
When Lange struggled early on this season, it was because of nibbling. That led to him 5.2 batters per nine innings over the course of his first nine starts.
Since that point, it’s been a different story completely. He’s resumed attacking with his 92-94 mph fastball and hard-breaking spiked curve in pitching to a sub-2.00 ERA over his last seven starts.
“I’m not pitching timid,” Lange said. “I’m going after them right with my stuff. They know what’s coming so, if I pitch low and I pitch away, we’ll have good results.”
Flipping to the other side of the matchup, Coastal Carolina will counter with its own ace in right-hander Andrew Beckwith (12-1, 1.82 ERA).
The Big South Pitcher of the Year doesn’t come into Alex Box Stadium armed with a mid-90s heater like his counterpart Saturday night, but one glance at the numbers proves he represents a different kind of challenge entirely.
Andy Cannizaro and Nolan Cain spend countless hours cutting up film on opposing arms, but Beckwith is hard to get a read on. He throws from multiple arm angles almost at random throughout the game.
Sometimes it’s an over-the-top motion and a straighter fastball at 86-89 mph, and at others he drops down and throws sidearm to throw a two-seamer around 85 mph with devastating arm-side run. There’s also breaking balls thrown from multiple angles. Not to mention impeccable command.
“You’ve just got to find his release point,” outfielder Antoine Duplantis said, “if you can, because it changes so much. You just go up there and look for one pitch in one spot and it doesn’t matter what angle he’s coming from.”
The motion can be particularly difficult for right-hander hitters to pick up, with his sidearm motion making the ball appear to Frisbee out from behind them.
“Obviously it’s going to be difficult,” shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “I don’t know if there’s going to be a perfect answer to that. That’s why he’s successful. It’s difficult. It’s going to be a challenge. But I think we’ll be ok.”
NEWS AND NOTES
– Mainieri said he’d “like to go with (Jared) Poche’ Sunday” if he can, though it’ll depend on how the left-hander is feeling as the day draws closer. He threw 69 pitches over six brilliant innings of one-hit relief Tuesday on three-day’s rest. He’s started on four day’s rest twice this season, as would be the case if he pitched Sunday, but neither was after pitching on three-day’s rest the last time out.
– Mainieri said Jordan Romero’s back is feeling better, and the catcher was a full participant in practice Friday. He previously tweaked it while swinging during the regional.
MLB DRAFT TRACKER
CURRENT PLAYERS (*position based on team announcement*)
- OF Jake Fraley | Tampa Bay Rays | No. 77 overall (slot value: $826,200) | Confirmed Friday he will sign
- LHP Jared Poche’ | San Diego Padres | No. 414 overall (14th round)
- RHP Jesse Stallings | Cincinnati Reds | No. 438 overall (15th round)
- 2B Cole Freeman | Los Angeles Dodgers | No. 551 overall (18th round)
- RHP Riley Smith | Arizona Diamondbacks | No. 719 overall (24th round)
- 3B Greg Deichmann | Minnesota Twins | No. 738 overall (26th round)
- RHP Parker Bugg | Miami Marlins | No. 803 overall (27th round)
- 2B Kramer Robertson | Cleveland Indians | No. 962 overall (32nd round)
- RHP Riley Pint | Colorado Rockies | No. 4 overall (slot value: $5,258,700) | Will sign professionally
- RHP Kyle Weatherly (JUCO) | Toronto Blue Jays | No. 252 overall (slot value: $174,700)
- RHP Hunter Kiel | Arizona Diamondbacks | No. 869 overall (29th round)
- RHP Zach Hess | New York Yankees | No. 1,058 overall (35th round)
- SS Jake Slaughter | Chicago Cubs | No. 1,094 overall (36th round)
- SS Josh Smith | Detroit Tigers | No. 1,135 overall (38th round)