By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
OMAHA, Neb. — This wasn’t the way Jared Poche’ envisioned himself etching his name in the LSU record books.
Poche’ picked up career victory No. 38 on Saturday night as LSU defeated Florida State 5-4 at TD Ameritrade Park, tying Scott Schultz for the most in the program’s storied history.
It was unlike most of the 37 W’s that came before it.
Poche’ fired 2.2 innings of sterling relief to allow LSU’s bizarre come-from-behind victory. The outing itself wasn’t vintage Poche’, as the lefty allowed just two hits in a relatively suspense-free relief appearance.
But in a more simplistic sense, it epitomized everything that Poche’ has meant to the program. When the Tigers needed someone to step up and deliver under pressure, he come through as he has so often through his four years in purple and gold.
“Can you believe, here he is now, tied for the winningest pitcher in history of the LSU baseball,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “And here’s the scoop. We’ve had good players coming through the program through the years. I’m proud of Jared and everything he’s done for this program, and I love him to death. I’m going to miss him terribly.”
Poche’ inherited a runner on first base and retired the top of the order in the seventh, making quick work of the hitters that’d given ace Alex Lange fits all night.
The southpaw carried LSU through out No. 26, turning the ball over to flame-throwing freshman Zack Hess to close things out for an all-important win in the College World Series.
Some hurlers with his decorated career would’ve pouted about being sent to the bullpen, his customary second start being turned over to freshman Eric Walker.
But not Poche’. He took it in stride and quieted a patient, powerful lineup long enough for LSU to mount another improbable eighth-inning comeback.
“I’m all for it at this point in the season. Whatever I can do to help the team, I want to do it,” Poche’ said. “And tonight just worked out for us. And I’ll be ready for whenever Coach calls my number again.”
That’s Poche’ in a nutshell.
Never the dominant ace, he doesn’t possess the eye-popping stuff of a Lange or Kevin Gausman, the pinpoint command of Aaron Nola or the strikeout prowess of Ben McDonald.
But whenever LSU has needed a clutch performance, whether from a starter or reliever, he’s been there to provide it. Twice denied a chance at program immortality at Alex Box Stadium, he found it in dramatic fashion at college baseball’s most hallowed ground.
“It’s unbelievable,” Poche’ said, allowing himself to embrace the moment he’s downplayed time and time again in vintage Poche’ fashion. “Just with all the great pitchers that have come through LSU for me to, I guess, tie that record and put my name at the top of the list, it’s something that’s hard to describe.
“Obviously been thinking about it all year and been hoping that it would happen obviously the last two weeks. But I guess God had a better plan and wanted it to happen in Omaha. So I’m excited. Definitely didn’t think it was going to happen with me coming out of the bullpen.”
Nobody did, but then again, nobody would’ve predicted a lefty with spotty command an 88 mph heater would win more than anyone in the program’s decorated history, either.
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