Coastal Carolina is second in the nation in home runs.
Alex Lange does not particularly care.
Lange will start the Tigers’ super regional opener against the Chanticleers, who have hit 91 home runs this season, at 8 p.m. Saturday. Lange was adamant Friday that this free-swinging bunch from the Big South conference won’t alter his repertoire.
“I’m not too worried about the home runs,” said Lange, who has issued just one home run in his last 26 innings. “I’m not pitching timid to them. I don’t care if I’m pitching to Alex Rodriguez. I don’t care. I’m going to pitch to my game plan. If you miss your spot-up, they’re going to hit it. That’s just how it is. That’s how baseball is.”
When he’s not flipping a power breaking ball as a putaway pitch, Lange thrives on pitching to contact and letting his defense function. He is not a command-oriented finesse arm and does not plan to pitch away from contact against the Chanticleers.
“Because that’s when you run into trouble. That’s when the walks start coming,” Lange said. “I’m going to pitch to contact. The Box is pretty big. It takes a lot to get it out of here.”
Alex Box Stadium is 330 feet down both foul lines and 405 feet to center field. Springs Brooks Stadium, the Chanticleers’ home park, is 390 to center field.
Lange started last season’s super regional opener against UL-Lafayette — a club that was similar to Coastal Carolina, coach Paul Mainieri said.
“They’re going to hunt the fastball, in a sense, so the changeups and curveballs are going to be big to those guys early — pitching backwards, in a sense,” Lange said. “Same type of approach, same type of atmosphere.”
First he will throw over the top, around 86-89 mph. Then Coastal Carolina right-hander Andrew Beckwith will drop down, slinging a submarine-style delivery anywhere from 82-84 mph to confuse the LSU order he’ll face Saturday night.
Beckwith, the Chanticleers’ starter opposite Lange, has a 12-1 record. His arm angles vary throughout outings, but he admitted Friday his future is probably as a sidearmer.
“Down low, I think, is my calling card right now,” Beckwith said. “As long as I can throw strikes, I think I can do both.”
The task for LSU’s lineup is to diagnose the arm angle at the plate in the milliseconds between release and decide whether or not to swing. LSU has faced sidearmers this season — reliever Collin Strall threw to his teammates in the fall — but no pitcher that varied and manipulated his delivery.
“The left-handed hitters can see it a lot better,” Mainieri said. “But when a right-hander drops down and that ball feels like it’s coming from behind you as a right-handed hitter, it makes it more challenging. That’s why the guy’s been so successful. It’s not just a matter of having those different arm angles, but the stuff that comes out of the hand as well. He’s got good stuff.”
Beckwith, formerly the “safety blanket” in the Chanticleers’ bullpen before he was elevated to a starting role, has a 1.82 ERA in 89 innings. He keeps all pitches, no matter the arm angle, low in the zone and thrives on groundball outs.
“We need to try to focus on the baseball, not his body or his arm, but it’s going to be difficult,” Kramer Robertson said. “We haven’t faced many people like that. He’s obviously had success with it in his numbers. We’ll see what happens.”
The home team
LSU will be the home team in Game 1 of the super regional while Coastal Carolina will be the home team in Sunday’s Game 2. If a Game 3 is necessary, LSU will again be the home team.
In past super regionals, a coin toss was used to determine the home team for Game 3.
The Tigers were forced to the third-base dugout as the visiting team in its past two regional games, including Tuesday’s regional title game. LSU was the visiting team only once before then and Rice twice, necessitating the switch.
Mainieri said catcher Jordan Romero’s back is fine. Romero participated fully in LSU’s practice. ... Coastal Carolina shortstop Michael Paez was taken in the fourth round of Friday’s Major League Baseball braft by the New York Mets. ... Paez’s teammate, third baseman Zach Remillard, went in the 10th round to the Chicago White Sox. ... LSU’s active roster is the same as it was in the Baton Rouge regional.
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome.