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LSU starting pitcher Jared Poche' (16) is hugged by LSU pitcher Alex Lange (35) as he comes out of the game in the ninth inning against Maryland after getting his first and only hit of the game, Saturday, February 25, 2017, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. LSU won 14-0.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

Alex Lange knelt on the dirt and raised his arms in the air, as if he was a preacher getting ready pray over a congregation.

It was March 19, before LSU’s series finale against Georgia. Lange’s LSU teammates surrounded him on the pitcher’s mound, virtually all of them with their hats off to pay their respects. Lange’s fellow starting pitcher, Jared Poché, kneeled across from him with a Ziploc bag.

Poché had collected the shavings of his mustache — one he’d been growing since Feb. 18 — to properly bury them on the Alex Box Stadium mound.

Despite coach Paul Mainieri’s no-facial-hair policy, Poché’s mustache remained as a method of superstition. The senior lefty fired 32 straight scoreless innings to begin the season, which included a seven-inning no-hitter in his first start against Army. Georgia finally broke the streak on a fourth-inning solo home run in the second game of that series.

And it made sense that Lange was front and center for that odd ceremony with a person he considers one of his best friends. The two have brought stability to the Tigers’ rotation since Lange joined the staff in 2015, and they have been each other’s biggest cheerleaders ever since.

"I think the biggest thing is that they respect each other," Tigers second baseman Cole Freeman said. "They respect what they’ve done. Obviously, Jared has the chance to be the all-time winningest pitcher here, and Lange has done what Lange has done. I think they just kind of feed off of each other. Honestly, I think they try to one-up each other." 

Even when Mainieri flipped the rotation midway through last season, making Lange to No. 1 starter while Poché became the No. 2, Poché didn’t complain.

“I was a little anxious to see how Jared would react and how their relationship would be,” Mainieri said. “Didn’t change one iota.”

This relationship began even before either pitcher started wearing purple and gold, when Poché was 17 and Lange was 16. Both were on same Marucci Elite travel team, which Poché described as “loaded.” They had players from all over the country, and the team rarely practiced. They played games in places such as Baton Rouge, Atlanta, Arizona and Florida.

A few current LSU players were on the team, including Greg Deichmann and Beau and Bryce Jordan. Former Auburn star Anfernee Grier was one of the several players on the team who were either drafted or went on to play Division I baseball.

But what stood out to Poché about Lange was how much better he was than everyone else on the team.

“He was a year younger than us, and he was as good or even better than all the guys on the team. And we were on a really talented team,” said Poché, a Lutcher High School graduate. “Alex was a sophomore and he was throwing 92 miles per hour. I’m a year older than him and I’m not throwing nearly as hard as that. We just kind of clicked.”

For Lange, what stood out about Poché was that thick south Louisiana accent.

“I couldn’t understand what he was talking about at first, so that was funny to me,” said Lange, a Missouri native. “He’s always happy. He likes to have fun. He’s just an enjoyable guy to be around.”

As the friendship formed on the travel team, Poché made it known to Lange that he wanted him to join him at LSU. Lange was uncommitted at the time, Poché said, and he eventually passed on an opportunity to play professionally out of high school.

“The whole time I’m in his ear trying to get him here, and the next thing you know — I don’t know what happened with the draft or anything — but he ends up at LSU,” Poché said. “It just took off from there. I guess the rest will be history.”

Both Lange and Poché, who room together on the road, said neither has changed since they first met on that travel team. Teammates say the duo’s affable personalities aren’t that much different off the field, either. Lange, especially, is known for his antics in the dugout when he’s not starting, including collecting teammates’ helmets when they cross home plate.

Though both are known to be focused and competitive, they approach starts differently.

“Poché is a little more a laid-back, even on game days,” shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “Pretty easygoing guy. Lange is laser focused. Two very different personalities, but they mix well, and it’s a really good combo for us on the mound.”