By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
A solo home run snapped Jared Poche’s astounding scoreless inning streak at 32 on Saturday night, meaning the mustache he’s been permitted to grow along with it has a date with a razor blade.
“It was a good run,” Poche’ smiled, his coach having already told him it’s time for a shave. “A lot of good memories with it.”
Georgia wouldn’t score again as the veteran southpaw picked up his fifth win in as many starts. The run inflated his pristine ERA all the way up to 0.25.
Poche’ masterfully scattered seven hits and two walks over seven innings of one-run ball and Antoine Duplantis continued his prolific weekend with a home run and three RBI to lift LSU past Georgia, 5-1, and secure a SEC series victory at Alex Box Stadium.
“Jared Poche’ doesn’t care about records, he doesn’t care about streaks,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri began. “He just wants to win and he went out there tonight and competed like he does every time he pitches for us. For four years I’ve had the pleasure of watching that kid go out there and compete as hard as he can. He’s really amazing to me.”
The start was more vintage Poche’ than the dominant form he’d been in throughout the shutout streak.
He worked into and out of trouble all night, aided by three double plays turned by the defense behind him. He held the Bulldogs to one hit in five at-bats with runners in scoring position and worked around a healthy share of admitted mistakes left over the middle of the plate.
Georgia squared up some Poche’ offerings early, but the left hander induced double play ground balls to Cole Freeman at second base to get out of the first and second innings. He stranded a runner in scoring position in the third inning with help from a diving catch by Kramer Robertson on a bloop to shallow left.
“If those plays aren’t made, I probably don’t make it till the seventh inning,” Poche’ said.
LSU (15-5, 2-0 SEC) pulled ahead in the second inning without the virtue of a hit. Zach Watson walked and Jake Slaughter got hit with a pitch for the fourth time this weekend. After a wild pitch, Josh Smith brought home the run with a ground ball to shortstop.
Georgia (8-12, 0-2 SEC) pulled even in the fourth. Keegan McGovern led off the inning with a solo home run to right-center field off Poche’, ending the second-longest shutout streak in LSU history.
The crowd gave Poche’ a thunderous standing ovation before he retired the next three Bulldogs in order.
“It kind of ticked me off a little bit,” Poche’ said. “I kind of thought ‘Man, are they cheering that he hit a home run off me?’ Then it sunk in what they was clapping for. But that was definitely a first for me.
The game wouldn’t remain tied long. Duplantis, fresh off a school-record six hits on Friday night, jumped on the first pitch he saw in the fourth for a solo home run to right field of his own. It was LSU’s first hit of the evening against Georgia right-hander Tony Locey.
LSU extended the lead after Locey uncorked 15 consecutive balls to begin the fifth inning, walking the bases loaded and falling behind Duplantis 3-0. A battle ensued, and after five consecutive foul balls, Duplantis smoked the 10th pitch of the at-bat to right field for a two-run single.
“Twannie has been super, super clutch,” Mainieri said. “That at-bat that he had tonight reminded me of Alex Bregman.”
Georgia loaded the bases against Poche’ in the sixth with two singles and a walk. One ball away from walking in a run, Poche’ induced another ground ball to second base and Freeman began an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to extinguish the threat.
Caleb Gilbert came on in the eighth inning for his first appearance as LSU’s interim closer to nail down a relatively drama free six-out save. A bases-load walk to Robertson in the bottom of the eighth inning provided an extra run of insurance. Gilbert will be available to close tomorrow, Mainieri said.
LSU will go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon behind freshman right-hander Eric Walker. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.