Jared Poché let his pitching do the talking.
He was at his best when it mattered most, and that’s one of the primary reasons LSU is going to the College World Series.
The sophomore left-hander from Lutcher frustrated Louisiana-Lafayette’s hitters for 7.2 innings as the Tigers completed a sweep in the Baton Rouge super regional with a 6-3 victory Sunday night at Alex Box Stadium. He improved to 9-1 after limiting the Ragin’ Cajuns to five hits and one run.
The UL-Lafayette leadoff hitters reached base in five of eight innings against Poché, though two of those runners reached on errors.
Most importantly, Poché limited the Cajuns to two hits in 12 at bats with runners on base and one hit in 10 at bats with runners in scoring position.
When asked in the postgame news conference about the key to him keeping UL-Lafayette scoreless until LSU had a five-run lead with four outs to go, Poché started crediting catcher Kade Scivicque and pitching coach Alan Dunn.
Then he stopped in mid-answer, struggling to find the right words almost as much as the Cajuns batters struggled against him.
But shortstop Alex Bregman jumped in and got the save.
“He’s been doing that for us all year,” Bregman said. “He’s made big pitches in big situations all year, and that’s why we’re here.”
In the bottom of the first, Blake Trahan led off with a single and Joe Robbins sacrificed him to second, but Poché got a pop-up and a fly out.
In the third, Nick Thurman led off by reaching on first baseman Chris Chinea’s fielding error and Dylan Butler sacrificed him to second, but Poché struck out Trahan and got Robbins on a grounder to short.
In the fourth, Kyle Clement led off with a single and one out later, Tyler Girouard singled, giving the Cajuns multiple base runners for the first time, but Poché got Evan Powell to hit into a double play.
In the fifth, Poché walked Butler, the No. 9 hitter, with two outs and balked him to second before getting Trahan to ground to third.
In the sixth, Robbins led off and reached on Bregman’s fielding error, Clement sacrificed him to second and Poché hit Stefan Trosclair with a pitch. But Girouard hit a line drive to Jared Foster at second, who threw to Bregman to double off Robbins.
“Jared came out and competed,” Scivicque said. “He threw well and dominated. He threw strikes at all times. It was just an awesome performance by him.”
After Scivicque hit a solo home run to break a scoreless tie in the top of the seventh, Poché seemed sharper in the bottom half. He had his first 1-2-3 inning since the second, needing just nine pitches to get two strikeouts and a fly out.
“(Dunn’s) big thing is whenever the offense scores is for us to throw up a zero in the next inning,” Poché said. “That’s big for momentum.”
The momentum continued to build as the Tigers scored four in the eighth to give Poché a 5-0 lead with six outs to go.
“Jared Poché is one of those pitchers when you give him a lead he shifts into another gear,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Extra competitive juice starts flowing through his veins. When he gets a lead, he smells victory.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Poché gave up a leadoff double to Butler and one out later, Robbins singled Butler to third. The Cajuns finally scored when Clement hit into a force-out at second as Butler came home.
Mainieri brought on Russell Reynolds as Poché left to a standing ovation.
UL-Lafayette had a little more success against the bullpen than it had against Poché, but the early opportunities that were lost against him were too much for the Cajuns to overcome.
“We just couldn’t get a timely hit off of (Poché),” Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux said. “He made the big pitches when he needed to.”