HOOVER, Ala. — LSU coach Paul Mainieri has a go-to phrase when describing the all-too-familiar scenarios in which Jared Poché gets himself into trouble and then somehow finds a way to wiggle out unscathed: Vintage Poché.
“Sometimes it hasn’t been pretty, but in a way that’s what makes him who he is,” Mainieri said. “He gets into jams and he has to battle his way out. You sit there biting your fingernails in the dugout every inning, but after a while you look up there and it’s the sixth inning and the other team’s got one run, you’ve got five and you’re ready to close out a game for a victory.
“You’re wondering how does he do it? It’s just who he is.”
Was there ever a more Vintage Poché moment than Saturday? When South Carolina loaded the bases against him in the fourth inning on a single, an error and a walk, and Poché got out of the inning with a pitch so wild that it perfectly caromed off the backstop to catcher Michael Papierski, who flipped to Poché at the plate for the third out?
No, that was peak Vintage Poché. It also allowed for Poché to contribute his usual deadpan excellence after the game.
“That’s exactly how we drew it up,” Poché said of the wild pitch. “Before the game we were talking about it. I think we executed it perfectly.”
His latest vintage performance netted him his 10th win of the season, a personal best — and a break from career consistency. In each of his previous three seasons, Poché was credited with nine wins.
His career season moved him into sole possession of second place on LSU’s all-time wins list. Poché won his 37th game as an LSU pitcher Saturday, breaking his tie with Lane Mestepey and moving him within one win of matching Scott Schultz’s career record.
All of this out of a guy whose fastball probably ranks in the lower third on LSU’s roster in velocity, a player who has never finished among the top-15 strikeout pitchers in the SEC. There’s more to him than that, though.
“His results speak for themselves,” Mainieri said. “When he came here as a freshman, I saw something special in him. I looked beyond the mile-per-hour readings of the radar gun. I looked beyond how many rotations the ball spins out of his hand and all that other stuff, because what I saw was the biggest heart you can imagine in an athlete.”
It makes sense then that the record Poché is on the verge of breaking is the one he has some of the least control over. Once the ball leaves his hand, he’s done. The wins are as much a result of his teammates having his back at the plate and in the field as they are a result of the pitches finding their mark.
That was the case Saturday, when he went out to start the third inning with an 11-run cushion. Another Poché wisecrack is coming.
“I definitely love runs,” Poché said, “but if they could score in under 10 minutes, that would be ideal.”
A few weeks ago, Mainieri found himself alone in the dugout with his senior southpaw. He took advantage of the unusual circumstance and told him what a privilege it was to coach him for four years.
Saturday, Mainieri said Poché has been one of his favorite players in a career nearing its fourth decade.
“I have (seen it before), but it doesn’t happen as frequently, that a player gets the maximum out of his ability,” Mainieri said. “When his career is over, he should have no regrets about his career because he got everything out of every ounce of his talent.”