Jerry Poché had some words of advice for his son Jared before LSU’s super regional game against Louisiana-Lafayette last Sunday.
They were simple, yet effective.
“I just told him to focus and drink a lot of fluids,” Jerry said. “Just execute your pitches, and you’ll do well.”
Jared, a sophomore left-handed starter, certainly did well, tossing 7.2 innings and earning the win to propel LSU to the College World Series.
Jerry’s words served as Jared’s latest lesson to come from Lutcher. He learned plenty while growing up in his tiny hometown, though three lessons in particular have combined to mold him into the pitcher who is currently baffling opposing offenses in the NCAA tournament.
The Poché family has deep roots in the small community roughly 50 minutes outside of Baton Rouge. Jared’s parents, Jerry and Tessa, both lived in Lutcher their whole lives. Jerry loved the town so much that he became a family practitioner, a job he has held for 23 years.
They moved once — if 300 yards away from the previous home can be considered moving.
And in front of their second home is where Jared’s arsenal began to take shape.
In the seventh grade, Jared had only two pitches to his name: a fastball and a curveball. He needed someone to teach him a third.
Which leads to one of the early lessons Jared learned in Lutcher: how to throw a changeup.
“My brother Corey taught me my changeup,” Jared said. “I’ve got to give him credit for that one.”
It began as practice out in the front yard. Corey, who played four years at Lutcher High before playing two more as a pitcher for Nicholls State, was never a fireballer, topping out at 84 mph in college.
But he was a southpaw with a premier changeup, and he knew exactly what Jared needed to thrive.
“I had to get to him early and let him know that he better become polished now, because he doesn’t have time to wait,” Corey said. “I wanted to make sure he had all three pitches that he could throw down in the zone for a strike.”
The three pitches quickly came along. Soon enough, Jared was prepared to show off that array to the Lutcher High coaching staff.
Bulldogs coach Davey Clement remembers Jared’s arrival well.
Bases loaded, two outs. The Bulldogs were in need of a clutch performance during a tournament in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, in 2009. Clement turned to Jared, who was transitioning into his freshman season at the time.
Jared struck out the batter to end the inning.
“He didn’t care that he was a freshman,” Clement said. “That’s when we said, ‘We might have somebody right here.’ ”
Fast forward six years, and Poché carries that same mentality. Known for his quiet demeanor and his inability to be fazed by pressure, Poché displayed those attributes last Sunday against UL-Lafayette, successfully keeping the Ragin’ Cajuns from scoring despite the leadoff hitter reaching in four of the first seven innings.
Poché learned that second lesson — the ability to be unflappable on the hill — back at Lutcher High, though Clement said he doesn’t want to take all of the credit for it.
“That’s all that my pitching coach (Risley St. Germain) and I used to preach,” Clement said. “We never show emotion. You can’t show the other team that something is bothering you. With Jared, he just bought in. He just understands that you never want them to see you sweat.”
It was a mindset that first caught LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn’s attention before Jared’s junior season with the Bulldogs. That is when Poché attended a fall camp at LSU. Before the camp’s conclusion, he was offered a scholarship and agreed to attend the university in two years.
“You looked at him, and you just saw that presence that nothing fazes him,” Dunn said. “And his stuff was pretty good, too.”
And he brought that attitude everywhere. He took it to the diamond, where he won 33 games over his four-year prep career. He brought it with him to the football field, where he was a star quarterback for the Bulldogs heading into his senior season. He even took it to the pool, where he swam for Lutcher High during his senior season after giving up football.
Well, he sort of swam.
“Every time he’d jump in the pool, he’d sink,” Jerry said, jokingly. “He’s a decent swimmer. Jared did it mostly to keep his arms in shape.”
Regardless, it all proved valuable in the end, considering he eventually led Lutcher to a baseball state title during his senior season. Which leads to a third lesson from Lutcher: how to handle the big game.
Jared still fondly remembers the state title game from May 2013. He remembers facing only 22 batters in the outing. He remembers tossing his glove in the air after defeating St. Thomas More 4-0.
But he especially remembers his emotions before the game.
“I was able to just take a breath and take a step back,” he said. “I remember before the game, I talked to a guy I know who said St. Thomas More was probably the best-hitting team in the state, so I was thinking the worst. But I was able to bear down, and it all worked out for us.”
He’s had quite a few big games since then.
Jared now has two Baton Rouge regional starts, including this year’s performance against UNC-Wilmington when he tossed 8.2 scoreless innings, and a super regional appearance in two seasons under his belt. Considering he’ll be on the mound in Omaha on Sunday against TCU, he may need to recall some of those teachings from all those years ago before toeing the rubber in TD Ameritrade Park.
All the times he and Corey worked in the front yard to perfect his changeup grip, all the bases-loaded jams he had to work out of with the Bulldogs and every big game he has participated in have led to Sunday’s moment.
He’ll be doing it for Lutcher.
“I know he’s pitching for a whole lot of people,” Jerry said. “Now it seems like he’s pitching for all the little towns in the state of Louisiana. He’s a small-town boy who’s doing well.”