Alex Lange was at 104 pitches as he walked off the field to end the eighth inning, and not a soul stirred in the LSU bullpen.
Not on this night: It was clear whose game it was.
LSU’s ace was at his electric best in an important Thursday night start that resulted in a 4-0 win against Auburn (32-19, 14-11). Lange (6-5) fired a shutout — the second of his career — striking out more Auburn batters (nine) than he allowed to reach base (six).
"There's no better feeling than finishing what you started," Lange said.
It was a dominating night in every sense of the word, with Lange allowing just one base runner to advance past second base.
"His mechanics were tight, he had great command of his fastball, he had great command of his curveball — he made it easy for the umpire to call pitches tonight," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "He was very aggressive in the strike zone. Did he even walk a batter tonight?"
The answer: No. Of the 118 pitches thrown by Lange, 81 found the strike zone. Only five Auburn batters managed to work three balls out of Lange.
“I’ll give him a lot of credit for getting ahead of our guys — and no walks, that was huge,” Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. “We never really got to him.”
The game took just two hours, 30 minutes to complete as Lange breezed through the Auburn lineup.
“Alex was in a good groove tonight, man,” Mainieri said. “He was throwing it right where he wanted it, (catcher Michael) Papierski caught a great game and (pitching coach Alan Dunn) called a great game.”
Mainieri said if Lange hadn’t gotten the last batter of the game, he would’ve made a visit to the mound to assess how Lange felt. Closer Hunter Newman started getting warm at the beginning of the inning just in case.
But, Mainieri didn’t have to make that decision. This was Lange’s third complete-game effort of the season, but it was the first that resulted in an LSU win. His offensive teammates had his back Thursday night.
“When Lange’s on like he is tonight, you get to play loose,” said junior first baseman Nick Coomes, who finished with two of LSU’s six hits. “When you have even a one-run lead with Lange on the mound, it’s very comforting.”
LSU (33-17, 16-9) sunk its claws into Auburn starter Andrew Mitchell (5-3) right away, as five of its first six batters reached base, and three of them came home to score.
Greg Deichmann roped a single into left-center field with runners at the corners to give LSU a 1-0 lead on its fourth batter of the game. Beau Jordan added a bases-loaded walk and Josh Smith closed the three-run first with a sacrifice fly to left.
It was the second time this season LSU struck for three runs in the first inning against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
LSU added to its lead on Antoine Duplantis’ booming two-out double to right-center field in the second, scoring Kramer Robertson easily. It was Duplantis second hit in the first two innings.
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Thompson yanked Mitchell after he issued a one-out walk in the third — his sixth free pass of the day. He went to big right-hander Gabe Klobosits, which would turn out to be a great decision.
Klobosits came into the game with an unsightly .361 opponents batting average, but that would not have been clear watching him against LSU. Klobosits finished the game against LSU, suffocating the home lineup after its scorching start.
After walking the first batter he faced, Klobosits retired 13 of his next 14, keeping the deficit at four runs. Though LSU hit some balls hard against him, everything was finding Auburn gloves.
Several LSU hitters said Klobosits had a tough split-fingered fastball that gave them trouble.
Klobosits finished the game allowing just four LSU base runners in 5.2 innings of shutout relief.
“Butch told me ‘Just pound the ball in the strike zone. We’re down (4-0), so you can do nothing wrong. Go five innings. That’s why I put you in there — to get outs,’” Klobostis said.
LSU will send senior Jared Poché to the mound for Game 2, which will begin at 7 p.m. Mainieri tried to make sure his players did not get too high after a big win in Game 1.
"All we did tonight was avoid getting swept," Mainieri said. "We haven't won the series, we haven't swept the series. Tomorrow night is one of the biggest games of the year."