OMAHA, Neb. — Every time Jared Poché took the mound for the past month, he had to wonder if it was going to be the last time he’d do so in an LSU uniform.
He’s all out of ifs now. LSU will give the ball to its senior left-hander for the 70th and final time as a starting pitcher Tuesday night, when the Tigers face Florida in Game 2 of the best-of-three College World Series finals.
“As far as ending my career, I mean, you can’t go out any better way,” Poché said.
Then he clarified: There is no better way to go out, but there are degrees to this grand exit. As great as it is to call it a career on the sport’s biggest stage, he is hopeful his final effort is one that will make him proud.
“I just hope we can have a good showing,” Poché said. “Whatever happens, it’s what’s meant to be.”
Based on the way he’s been pitching lately, the odds seem to be in his favor.
Poché broke Scott Schultz’s all-time wins record his last time out, firing eight outstanding innings against Florida State. He had only given up one earned run through eight innings before he allowed two solo home runs to the first two batters he faced in the ninth.
Just a few days earlier, he matched Schultz’s win record with another victory against Florida State — this one coming in relief of his friend, Alex Lange.
In total, Poché has thrown 10.2 innings in this CWS, striking out six and walking just two. He has been strong at the critical time for LSU. That was not a given going into Omaha.
OMAHA, Neb. — Notes on my baseball scorebook while wondering how much longer I have to live …
Poché was not sharp in his NCAA regional and super regional starts.
He lasted just 4.1 innings in the regional opener against Texas Southern. Some of that can be attributed to errors that brought home six unearned runs, but Poché also allowed seven hits and walked three in the contest, needing 93 pitches to get through his 4.1 innings.
He cruised through two nearly perfect innings the next week, and then the wheels fell off. Poché walked the leadoff hitter, then gave up a two-run homer. After he recorded a line-drive out, he walked the bases loaded and was pulled from the game. He was eventually charged with four earned runs in 2.1 innings.
The number that stuck out to coach Paul Mainieri: the seven walks issued by Poché in those two starts.
“Command is a major factor for him; pitching ahead in counts, doing those kids of things,” Mainieri said. “When he pitches well, he does the things he needs to do. And when he doesn’t pitch as well, he’s constantly falling behind on counts, maybe even walking batters.”
LSU and Poché are hopeful he looks like the pitcher who shut down Florida State twice in the CWS than the one who struggled to find the strike zone in the regional and super regional rounds.
LSU knows it can count on at least one thing: Poché will be ready, and he will give maximum effort. It’s in his nature, Mainieri said.
“Jared is the consummate bulldog out there,” Mainieri said. “He’s a warrior. He’s going to give you everything he’s got.
“And, you know, you hope he’s on.”