OMAHA, Neb. — Alex Lange had Florida State center fielder JC Flowers right where he wanted him.
In the top of the seventh inning in the Tigers' 5-4 win in their opening game at the College World Series on Saturday, Lange had an 0-2 count on Flowers.
Lange threw a breaking ball inside — but instead of recording his ninth strikeout of the night, he nicked the front of Flowers’ jersey.
It was a close call, but it didn't go in Lange’s favor — and before Flowers finished his jog down to first, LSU coach Paul Mainieri was walking to the mound.
Lange’s night was done.
But that was how much of the junior right-hander’s outing went in Omaha: He either threw a strikeout (eight of them in all) or issued a walk (four of them, not to mention a hit batter).
LSU eventually won the game.
But Lange wasn’t quite Lange-like.
“I was terrible tonight,” he said afterward. “The offense and defense picked me up. That’s how baseball works. You’re not going to have your best stuff every night.
"I’d say it was a ‘D’ game. Command was terrible; wasn’t throwing the breaking ball for strikes; falling behind almost every hitter. Just have to take the team as deep in the game as you can when you have a night like that.”
Mainieri said he planned to pull Lange heading into the seventh inning, but Lange wanted three more outs. He left the game just a little short of that.
Jared Poché came in and controlled the game until LSU battled back to take the lead.
The typically dominant Lange has struggled with consistency the past few weeks.
He has walked 11 batters the last three outings against Southeastern Louisiana, Mississippi State and Florida State, accounting for 25 percent of his walks all season.
He has also hit one batter in each of those past three games and in five of his last six appearances. Before then, he had not plunked a batter all season.
“I felt great in the bullpen. I felt great all day. I was confident. I was excited to get out there,” Lange said. “But command wasn’t there, and you have to battle through that.”
Saturday night in the Tigers' opening game at the CWS, Lange fell behind early in counts and had to work to get even or ahead. Thirteen of the 27 batters Lange faced took a first-pitch ball.
In all, 45 of Lange's 101 pitches were balls.
Lange also allowed the leadoff man to reach safely in six of his seven innings, including Flowers in the seventh. Three of his innings began with walks.
But taking a free base has been a major part of Florida State’s success this season. Coming into the game, The Seminoles led the nation with 380 walks — 42 more than TCU the next-closest team in the CWS.
“They take pitches,” Lange said. “They make you throw the ball in the zone and they swing at good pitches. I think that’s obvious for everybody. There’s no secret to what they did that was mind-blowing. That’s what they’re known for: taking pitches and trying to get the starter out of the game early and have a high pitch count.”