By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
It went exactly like the dream LSU coach Paul Mainieri apparently had the night before.
Well, except for one minor detail.
The coach dreamt that he’d walk out to the mound and take the ball from ace Alex Lange after 7.2 brilliant innings, allowing him to get a standing ovation as his exited what’s almost certainly the final start at Alex Box Stadium of his brilliant career.
“Only thing is in my dream we were winning the game handily,” the coach said. “Unfortunately, I had to take him out when we were losing.”
Not for long.
LSU roared back with four runs in the bottom of the eighth to stun Mississippi State in the first game of the Baton Rouge Super Regional on Saturday night. Though Lange departed with LSU trailing 3-0, the comeback wouldn’t have been possible were it not for his efforts.
The ace fought his command early, walking the bases loaded in the first inning before hitting a batter to force in the game’s first run. But as he’s done so often in three years wearing purple and gold, Lange minimized the damage with clutch punchouts and gave his team a chance to win.
Lange didn’t allow another hit until the eighth inning. At one point he retired 17 out of 18 batters, striking out nine along the way. He kept LSU within hailing distance to allow an eighth-inning comeback for the ages.
“We’ve seen that for three years from Alex,” LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn said. “That first inning was critical. You only give up one and you give your team a chance. He kept it at one and managed to get us deep into the game. That’s Alex Lange in a nutshell right there.”
With tears in his eyes, Lange pointed to the sky and tipped his cap to the 11,000-plus paying customers as he walked off the mound at the Box one final time to a standing ovation.
“It was a pretty emotional day today, to be honest with you,” Lange said. “A lot of thinking, just reminiscing on how awesome this university is, and how much these fans and this team means to me. It was pretty cool coming off there, obviously you don’t want to be down, but that’s something I’ll remember forever.”
He continued: “It was a pretty emotional moment. But this has been the greatest three years of my life. This has been the greatest experience with these guys, Coach Mainieri, Coach Dunn playing here, and just wearing the Tigers uniform is pretty special.”
Lange is pretty special in his own right. Thanks in part to his efforts, LSU is one win away from ensuring he gets to make at least on more start as a Tiger.
Of course that next one, if there is a next one, would be in Omaha.
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