The LSU baseball team received a big night from its big-time players, which was more than enough to beat Wichita State 6-1 in a rain-delayed series opener Friday at Alex Box Stadium.
Among the stars who shined brightest for LSU (10-4) were Cole Freeman (2 for 3, two runs), Antoine Duplantis (3 for 4, two runs), Greg Deichmann (2 for 4, four RBIs) and Alex Lange.
A week after getting shelled by TCU in Houston, Lange turned in a simply dominant performance on the mound against the Shockers (8-4).
“His confidence doesn’t fluctuate depending on what he did his outing before, his pitch before, his inning before,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He just is the consummate winner. … Tonight, he was awesome.”
He faced the minimum through seven innings, erasing the lone hit he gave up in that span by starting a 1-6-3 double play to the next hitter he faced. He finished the night having allowed just two base runners in eight scoreless innings.
Lange struck out nine batters Friday night and had full command of his entire repertoire. His 74th pitch was a 95-mph fastball, and his 75th pitch was an 83-mph curveball he spiked in the dirt for his eighth strikeout to end the sixth inning.
“If you can command all three (pitches) for strikes early in the count, it just expands the zone,” Lange said. “The zone gets six inches bigger left and right, up and down.”
Lange said he wasn’t bothered by the lengthy delay that pushed first pitch back to 9:30 p.m. In fact, rain delays have treated him fairly well over the course of his career.
He dealt with a long delay in starts against UNC-Wilmington and Rice in the postseason the past two years. He fired a shutout against UNCW and struck out 10 while pitching into the ninth against Rice.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” Lange said. “You just kind of take it as it is, as something you can’t control. You’ve just got to go out there and do what you can.”
He was supported by his teammates early.
The Tigers brought home runs in the first, third and fifth innings, all of which came around off the bats of Duplantis and Deichmann.
Duplantis, batting in the No. 3 spot for the first time this season, brought the game’s first run home when he doubled down the right-field line to score Kramer Robertson in the first inning. Robertson batted in the leadoff spot for the first time this season; he went 1 for 4.
Deichmann turned in the biggest hit of the night with a mammoth three-run homer to right field in the fifth inning despite a stiff wind blowing in. The home run, Deichmann’s sixth of the year, gave LSU a 6-0 lead.
Earlier in the fifth inning, Robertson hit what he thought was the hardest ball he’s hit in four years at LSU, but it hung up in the wind and was caught shy of the warning track in center field. Three batters later, Deichmann’s homer sliced through the wind as if it wasn’t there.
“I just kind of sat there and shook my head,” Robertson said. “That’s the best ball I’ve hit in four years and I couldn’t clear (the defense), then Greg comes up and hits a homer. The wind’s blowing in, anything to right field and center field is dying, and he still goes yard. That makes me feel like a little boy.”
In the first inning, Deichmann saw exactly how strong the wind was. Wichita State first baseman Greyson Jenista tagged a Lange fastball that looked destined for the right-field bleachers. Deichmann figured it was gone, but then saw it hang up in the wind.
It didn’t seem to matter when he came to the plate.
“I don’t know how that man hits the ball so far and so hard,” Mainieri said. “I can’t even fathom it. I didn’t think there was any chance anybody was hitting a ball out to right field today.”
It was a boom or bust night for LSU offensively. The top four hitters in the order went a collective 8 for 15 and accounted for all the runs scored and driven in. The bottom five in the LSU lineup went 0 for 18.
LSU will go for the series win Saturday at 1 p.m.