Alex Lange strutted to the mound in bright white cleats to accompany the white uniform he begged Paul Mainieri to pitch in Thursday night.
The flamboyant footwear accompanied a fine performance he never got to finish.
Severe weather halted one of the country’s premier pitching matchups Thursday, sending LSU and Florida home after 2½ innings of scoreless play and wrecking the masterful evening both Lange and Gators ace Logan Shore were creating.
“Alex Lange was throwing the ball as well as he has all year, if not better,” Mainieri said. “He was so in a groove, his command was outstanding. They hit some balls hard off him because they’re a good team, but boy, he was pitching great. Such a shame.”
This game will be resumed Saturday morning at 11 a.m. The second game of the series (6 p.m. Friday) and the third game (3:30 p.m. Saturday) will go on as originally scheduled.
Game three is a seven-inning game. Because that game is televised, SEC rules mandate a “hard stop” one hour before air time — 2:30 p.m. in this case.
Should the resumption of the first game not be completed by then, that game will stop.The third game will be played and then be followed by the conclusion of the first game.
As for Thursday night, Lange allowed runners in each of his three innings, but stranded them all in what was shaping up to be a fine performance.
His fastball, though a bit elevated, topped at 94 mph. The big, breaking curveball had just enough bite to accompany home plate umpire Kevin Sweeney’s small strike zone — Lange threw eight of the 12 benders for strikes. He allowed just three fly balls in 11 batters.
“I’m disappointed as can be,” Mainieri said. “I thought Lange was really on fire. Felt like he was going to pitch a great game, maybe his best of the year. So when you lose that guy after three innings, obviously, it’s very, very disappointing.”
Shore, 10-0 and with a 2.29 ERA entering Thursday, matched Lange’s scoreless outing — though Mainieri was quick to laud his lineup’s approach.
LSU chose to swing early and often against the command-centric right-hander, seeing just 17 pitches through the first two innings. Chris Reid’s double down the right field line was the Tigers’ only hit in that span.
“I just thought they were laying off bad pitches, hitting balls hard, seeing the ball good,” Mainieri said. “They really were. I’ve seen Logan Shore dominate and he wasn’t dominating our guys today. We had some great at-bats.”
The delay came while the Tigers mounted their most dangerous threat. Cole Freeman shot a one-out grounder that second baseman Deacon Liput couldn’t corral, turning the Tigers lineup over with the infield single.
Freeman swiped second easily and leadoff hitter Antoine Duplantis ran the count full just as the grounds crew entered the field and summoned the tarp. The game will resume Saturday morning from that point.
The outcome was the antithesis of Mainieri’s mindset when he made the decision Wednesday to start Lange instead of Riley Smith.
Mainieri said the weather forecast looked worse on Friday. That, coupled with Lange’s “politicking,” prompted him to throw the reigning National Freshman of the Year opposite Shore.
“I’m certainly not a good weatherman,” Mainieri quipped. “I know that.”
Lange threw 39 pitches and Mainieri said there’s an “outside, outside, outside” chance he’d be available out of the bullpen Saturday. If Lange is not used Saturday, Mainieri now sees him as LSU’s starter on Tuesday in the SEC Tournament, should the Tigers play that day.
The top four seeds in the tournament receive a bye to Wednesday. Entering play Thursday, LSU was the No. 6 seed.
“If we pitched him on Saturday and we don’t get in the top-four, who do we throw Tuesday,” Mainieri said. “I think how much that (Saturday) game means, based upon what’s happening around the league and everything else in the first two days and how we do tomorrow night and the pick-up game, all that stuff might dictate it. If we’re playing for the SEC championship, we might just say ‘OK, let’s go for it.’ But something less than that, I’d have hesitation to bring him back anyway.”
Jared Poche, who was originally scheduled to start Saturday’s finale, will start game two tomorrow.
Mainieri said Smith will pitch Saturday, but does not know whether he will start game three or the resumed game one — which likely won’t have the same buzz Mainieri sensed Thursday.
“It was electric,” Mainieri said. “The atmosphere was great. It felt like a super regional, which is what I want our players to experience. And they were playing well.”