TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — LSU received contributions from just about everybody in a 7-4, series-clinching win against Alabama on Friday night.
It got it from the top of the order: Newly installed leadoff hitter Josh Smith drilled a two-run single with the bases loaded that gave LSU a 3-0 lead in the third.
The middle of the order: No. 3 hitter Greg Deichmann, coming off an 0-for-3 night Thursday, led the Tigers with his career-best, four-hit effort, and two of those hits drove runs home as LSU built up an early lead.
The bottom of the order: No. 8 hitter Michael Papierski reached base five times and added some needed insurance at the end of the game with a solo shot into the wind.
The bullpen: Freshman Zack Hess and senior Hunter Newman combined to throw 3.1 innings of scoreless relief, never letting a runner get into scoring position to close out the game.
The story of the game to coach Paul Mainieri however, was his starting pitcher.
Senior left-hander Jared Poché (7-3), coming off his shortest outing of the season, put LSU in position to win with 5.2 mostly solid innings — nearly all of which came after he rolled his ankle while pitching against the second batter of the game.
“My heart stopped beating when he rolled his ankle,” Mainieri said.
Poché wasn’t exactly sure what happened, except that when trying to field a ground ball to the shortstop, his ankle turned a way it wasn’t supposed to.
He spoke on the field with Mainieri and athletic trainer Cory Couture, took a few moments to walk it off, fired some warmup pitches to make sure he was good and stayed in to get a ground ball to second and complete a 1-2-3 first inning.
“It freaked me out for a second, but there was no way I was coming out of the game after that,” Poché said.
Poché scattered seven hits, two of which were infield singles. He threw 47 of his 76 pitches for strikes and only issued one free pass.
Especially considering the bum ankle, which Mainieri said was bothering Poché more than he was letting on, his performance Friday was a far cry from his outing last week against Kentucky, when he only threw 30 of his 59 pitches for strikes.
“I don’t think I’ve had anybody that has more pride in himself than Jared Poché,” Mainieri said. “When he doesn’t do well, when he has an off game, his pride gets hurt. And he doesn’t sulk and pout about it, he goes back to work and he’s going to do something about it.”
But as has been the case at times this season, he was susceptible to the long ball, allowing two more to leave the yard to bring his season total to 10 home runs allowed. Both of the homers came when Poché was behind in the count.
“The couple times I got behind (in the count), it showed,” Poché said. “Those guys put good swings on them. That’s what happens in the SEC, those guys can swing, and if you’re in their counts too much, they’ll hurt you.”
Poché was pulled from the game after Chandler Taylor demolished a 2-1 offering for a solo home run with two outs in the sixth. It was Taylor's 12th home run of the year, and he hit it into the teeth of a stiff wind blowing in from right field.
LSU (29-15, 12-8 Southeastern Conference) turned to freshman right-hander Zack Hess, who proceeded to strike out four of the next five batters he faced. He finished his outing with 2.2 innings of scoreless, hitless relief.
Like Poché, Hess was coming off a rough outing. He was tagged for three crucial late runs in a Tuesday loss against Tulane, and this was his first appearance since then.
“It meant a lot, the fact (Mainieri) didn’t lose any confidence in me after the fact that I pretty much blew the game the other night,” Hess said.
Hess turned the ball over to closer Hunter Newman with one out in the ninth, and Newman worked around a two-out single to earn his sixth save of the season.
LSU jumped all over Alabama starter Nick Eicholtz, pounding out 10 hits off the senior right-hander in 4.2 innings and rolling up a 6-3 lead before the Tide (15-28, 2-18) called for right-hander Garrett Suchey.
Suchey has been the Tide's top bullpen arm this season, and he showed why Friday. He kept Alabama within striking distance by stifling LSU for much of the remainder of the game.
“He’s very good, very good,” Papierski said. “He slowed us down.”
The Tigers managed just two hits in their first 3.1 innings against Suchey, and one of them was an infield single by Nick Coomes that took a nasty hop and bounced off Alabama first baseman Cody Henry's face.
But Suchey couldn't completely keep the LSU lineup at bay. Papierski took him for a ride to right field for his fourth home run of the season with one out in the ninth to give LSU some cushion.
“I got a fastball inside, and I didn’t miss it,” Papierski said.
The Tigers will send freshman right-hander Eric Walker to the mound to go for the sweep at 2 p.m. Saturday. Alabama has lost 11 consecutive games.