ATHENS, Ga. — Alex Lange lifted his arms and stretched before glancing toward a tarp-covered, rain-soaked Foley Field.
LSU’s freshman star pitcher will have to wait one more day for that No. 1 role — and it’ll come on a Saturday.
The series opener between LSU and Georgia on Friday night was postponed, and the two teams will play a doubleheader starting at noon Saturday. Sunday’s third game remains scheduled for a noon start, but heavy thunderstorms are expected.
Lange will start Game 1 on Saturday, and sophomore Jared Poché will start the second game. The games will be nine innings, and Game 2 will start about 45 minutes after the completion of the first game.
Lange, the Southeastern Conference leader in ERA at 1.39, spent the first eight weeks of the season as the Tigers’ No. 2 weekend starter. He didn’t pitch last weekend against Auburn because of elbow tightness.
Coach Paul Mainieri promoted him into the No. 1 role for this weekend. He’ll have to wait another day.
“Something you have to take in stride,” Lange said Friday from LSU’s dugout, rain pounding on the roof. “It’s just another start for me. Not looking at it as that kind of start. I’m just trying to get out there and give my team a chance to win.”
The rainout Friday presents two problems: One, getting in a third game Sunday and two, having shorter rest time for starting pitchers for next week’s Thursday-Saturday series against Texas A&M.
Coaches had already agreed to move Sunday’s game to Saturday to create a Game 2 and Game 3 doubleheader. There is a 90-percent chance of rain and thunderstorms Sunday in Athens, the same stormy mess that could dampen LSU’s football spring game Saturday.
“Now we have to keep Sunday on, even though the chances look bad,” Mainieri said.
Austin Bain will likely be unavailable Saturday as the coach can’t take the risk to use him out of the bullpen. Bain is scheduled to start Sunday.
Already in a short week, LSU’s No. 1 pitcher, presumably Lange, will have five days of rest — instead of the usual seven — between starts. LSU hosts the Aggies starting Thursday in what could be a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup at Alex Box Stadium.
“I’m going to play them one game at a time,” Mainieri said. “Who knows? We could get rained out next Thursday. Look at the long-term forecast. They’re already predicting 80, 90 percent chance on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at home next week. When you deal with these circumstances, you just play them one game at a time.”
The Tigers (32-6, 10-5 Southeastern Conference) and the Bulldogs (20-18, 6-9) were set to meet at 6 p.m. Friday, but rain began about two hours before the scheduled first pitch and didn’t stop. There is a 40 percent chance of rain Saturday.
It’ll be LSU’s third doubleheader this season. The Tigers swept the first two — against Boston College and Princeton — by a combined 37-13 score.
Tickets purchased for Friday’s game can only be exchanged for another home Georgia baseball game this season that is not sold out. Saturday and Sunday’s games between Georgia and LSU are sellouts. A ticket for Saturday’s Game 2 is now good for the doubleheader.
LSU never released a lineup for Friday’s series opener. Mainieri said third baseman Conner Hale re-injured his non-throwing elbow in practice Thursday and was a gametime decision. The coach said Hale would have played in Friday’s game. Hale was hit by a pitch last week in the left elbow.
Moments after the postponement was announced Friday, Lange and Poché threw short toss in Foley Field’s outfield as rain pounded the turf around them, already preparing for a twin bill at the cozy park in the middle of Georgia’s campus.
For Poché, the doubleheader is somewhat of a letdown. Mainieri had planned to use Poché to possibly close Friday’s game. It would have been the first time Poché pitched in relief in his baseball career, dating to high school.
“Looks kind of fun when Jesse (Stallings) goes in there and gets the three outs and the whole team comes in and congratulates him. Would be a new experience for me,” Poché said. “I was looking forward to it. Don’t think it’ll happen this weekend but maybe the nest couple of weekends.”
The plan, for now, is to use Poché as a possible closer in series openers. If he closes those games, he would start the third game of a series instead of the second.
Lange’s new role is simple. He’s the No. 1 starter, replacing Poché in that spot. He’s one more day from making that official.
“He’s proved that he can pitch here, in the SEC,” Poché said. “He’s having a great year. If he just continues to do what he’s done all year, he’ll be fine. He’s got great stuff. Got a great mentality. He’s figured it out so far. The sky’s the limit for him.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.