Most people know about Alex Lange’s fastball — one that has clocked at 97 miles an hour.
Plenty know about his smarts — he has a 4.0 GPA — and a few even know that his favorite Cajun cuisines are boudin and crawfish.
There’s another thing about LSU’s flame-throwing freshman: He’s adopted.
“We’ve always been open about it,” said Renee Lange, Alex’s adopted mother. “I always felt like that if there are the things you have to hide, then those are things you are ashamed of.”
Alex Lange is more than just a hard-throwing, intelligent, adopted son of a Missouri school teacher. He’s LSU’s newest starting pitcher.
On Saturday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium, Lange will start on the mound for the Tigers in the second game of the season against Kansas.
He’s one of a host of new faces who will take the mound during the first week of the season, many part of LSU’s No. 1-ranked 2014 signing class.
His opening week might be bigger than any other. He grew up 10 minutes away from the Kansas border and less than an hour away from the home of the Jayhawks.
“A lot of people around me are Jayhawks fans,” Lange said.
LSU is handing the ball Saturday to a broad-shouldered, 6-foot-3, 200-pounder who’s possibly capable of throwing the ball 100 miles per hour.
Don’t expect to see that Saturday afternoon, but fans can prepare to watch a guy who coach Paul Mainieri compares to former LSU hurler and current professional Anthony Ranaudo.
He’ll have a low-to-mid 90s fastball from an arm slot that Mainieri says stretches nearly 10 feet high, and he’ll use a hard overhand curveball, too.
Lange had such a successful summer and fall that scouts told some the pitcher would have been selected in the first or second round of the MLB draft had it been in December. It’s no surprise: Lange had 114 strikeouts in 68.1 innings pitched as a senior in high school.
He’s got a shot to be the next great pitcher at LSU, joining Aaron Nola, Ranaudo, Kevin Gausman and Louis Coleman.
There’s a long way to go, of course.
“It’s only one weekend,” Lange said. “Once you get on top, it’s harder to stay. That’s something I’m not going to give up or back down. Now is not the time for me to back off.”
Backing down — that’s something Lange hasn’t done since his mother doubted him at age 11.
Alex didn’t play much on his 11-year-old summer league team, and Renee set her son down for a serious talk: Your dream of playing in the major leagues might not come true, she said, wanting her son to develop a backup plan in life.
“I’m telling you, mom, it’s going to happen,” Alex fired back.
“That set a fire under him,” she said. “You don’t tell him he can’t do something.”
A baseball playing career that started at age 2 — he used to throw impressively with his adopted father in the couple’s backyard — reaches a new level on Saturday.
He’ll toe the rubber for a team ranked in the top 10 in all six of the preseason polls. He’ll pitch as a 19-year-old in his first college game against a familiar foe.
Kansas and coach Ritch Price recruited Lange out of his Lee’s Summit, Missouri, home. He took multiple visits to KU, experienced the atmosphere at the basketball team’s Allen Fieldhouse and thought seriously about being a Jayhawk.
He played travel ball with at least three current Kansas players.
“(Kansas) is something that’s been there, been in my life a long time,” Lange said. “I have a lot of friends who are diehard KU fans.”
What turned him away from Kansas? He visited LSU late in his sophomore season of high school, saw what he calls “the cathedral of college baseball” (Alex Box Stadium) and committed not long afterward.
Baton Rouge is a 14-hour drive from Lange’s home. How’d mom feel about that?
“I don’t want him to be this far away, and I can’t see him as much as I want to, but it’s the right place for him,” Renee said. “He’s happy.”
Alex and Renee are close. Renee and Alex’s adopted father divorced when Alex was about 5. She’s raised him by herself, for the most part. She’s on the 27th year of teaching middle school special education.
“That’s the mom who raised me,” Alex said. “In my eyes, that’s the mom that birthed me. She’s been everything you can ask for in a mother and more.
“That’s my mom,” he added.
Renee and her husband couldn’t have children. They adopted Alex the day of his birth, a fact she never hid from him. Renee has shown Alex photographs of his biological mother holding him at 2-weeks-old. “You were in her belly,” she said to him.
She gave Alex information on his biological parents and doesn’t mind if they eventually have a relationship with the boy she raised. “The more people that love him the better,” Renee said.
He’s reached out to them, Alex said, but they haven’t met or spoken.
“When that time comes … if we meet, we meet,” he said. “I understand there are different boundaries and stuff. If we cross paths, that would be awesome. I’m not going to hold anything against them. It’s life. Life goes on.”
Baseball, too. On Saturday at the Box.
“I’m so excited for him,” Renee said. “I’m nervous. He told us he’s not nervous. I’m nervous for the both of us. We know a lot of people on the other team. I just want him to do well.”
Said Alex, with a smile: “It’s going to be fun.”
Friday: Kansas sr. RHP Drew Morovick (10-4, 5.00) vs. LSU so. LHP Jared Poché (9-3, 2.45)
Saturday: Kansas jr. LHP Ben Krauth (junior college) vs. LSU fr. RHP Alex Lange (high school)
Sunday: Kansas so. RHP Sean Rackoski (0-0, 10.80) vs. LSU fr. RHP Jake Godfrey (high school)
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.