By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
It’s that simple, according to LSU coach Paul Mainieri.
Alex Lange is the ace of the staff, and therefore, the No. 30 overall selection in Monday night’s MLB Draft will get the ball in the Tigers’ College World Series opener against Florida State.
“We usually have a better chance to win when our best pitcher pitches,” Mainieri said. “I know that’s really rocket science, isn’t it?”
Lange (9-5, 2.92 ERA) pulled in All-America and All-Southeastern Conference honors this season. He started game one of the Baton Rouge Super Regional, allowing three runs over 7.2 innings against Mississippi State to keep LSU in the game before rallying for four runs in the eighth inning.
Last time LSU went to Omaha, back in 2015, Mainieri elected to start lefty Jared Poche’ in game on ahead of Lange, but the circumstances were different then.
The coach liked Poche’s matchup against a lefty-laden TCU lineup and was weary of sending a then true freshman Lange to the bump in the opener. Lange instead went the distance in an elimination-game victory against Cal State Fullerton two days later.
The onus is on Lange to set the tone for a lineup utterly devoid of Omaha experience.
Of LSU’s position players, only Mike Papierski appeared in the 2015 College World Series, and he didn’t record an at-bat. Designated hitter Beau Jordan is the only other position player on the active roster who even made the trip.
“I love it,” outfielder Greg Deichmann said. “It’s been Lange’s role since he’s been here, stepping out there on the first day and setting the tempo for the weekend; setting the tempo for the tournament. Having him out there in game one in front of a packed crowd is going to be unbelievable.”
A difficult task awaits him at TD Ameritrade Park.
Florida State brings a patient, powerful lineup to Omaha. The Seminoles rank fifth in the nation in runs scored (488), No. 22 in home runs (72) and have drawn more walks than any team in Division I (380).
“They’re going to be patient, so we’re going to have to attack them with the fastball and really command the heater well to get them off the breaking stuff and the changeup,” Lange said. “Just go after them and trust the defense behind me.”
Mainieri didn’t divulge any hints as to LSU’s pitching plan beyond Lange in the opener.
The coach did say freshman right-hander Eric Walker, who didn’t pitch in the super regional, was scheduled to throw a simulated game on Tuesday night in order to stay sharp. The plan was for him to throw 75 pitches against LSU’s backups.