Alex Lange sat in the Alex Box Stadium stands, had a look around and thought the chances of him playing at LSU were not high.
“It was such a big-name program,” Lange said this week. “As a kid from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, you don’t think you’re going to play baseball at LSU.”
That trip to the 2012 Baton Rouge regional was Lange’s first to the Box. The experience was a big reason the hard-throwing right-hander committed to the Tigers when coach Paul Mainieri offered him a spot about three months later.
And now? He can help send LSU into Sunday’s regional championship.
After the Tigers disposed of Lehigh 10-3 on Friday, LSU, the NCAA tournament’s No. 2 national seed, meets UNC-Wilmington in Saturday night’s winner bracket final — a game that Lange (10-0, 1.94 ERA) will start.
The winner advances to the regional title game at 7 p.m. Sunday and must get beaten twice not to play in a best-of-three super regional next weekend.
Lange gets his shot Saturday to pitch in a place that captivated him heading into his junior year of high school in 2012. He watched LSU beat UL-Monroe and then Oregon State in that regional.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “The atmosphere was electric. These fans are awesome. That’s a big part of why I’m here — being able to experience that regional. Once I was given an opportunity to get a scholarship here, I was like, ‘There’s no reason not to come down here.’ ”
Lange pitched for the Marucci summer league — a reason for his visit during that regional. At the time, Lange, from just outside of Kansas City, thought he’d likely be playing college in the Big 12 — or at least closer to home. Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska were his top four schools.
“I hadn’t even looked into LSU,” Lange said. “I was looking into Big 12 schools at that point. And then when Coach Mainieri sat me down and said, ‘We’d like to offer you.’ I was kind of in awe. I was like, ‘OK.’ ”
And, now, here he is, the Southeastern Conference freshman of the year, a Louisville Slugger first-team All-American pitching in the regional’s biggest game.
Lange is on a roll lately. He shook off a bumpy April with a scintillating past three starts: 19 innings, eight hits, two runs, 24 strikeouts to 11 walks.
“This start is not going to be any different than anything else,” Lange said.
Stealing the show
It’s not often that an LSU baseball team sets a program record. The Tigers have won six national championships, after all.
But they set one Friday: LSU stole eight bases, the most ever in an NCAA tournament game, eclipsing a 40-year-old record.
LSU stole five bases in an SEC tournament game against Murray State in 1975, the previous record.
“It was the quickest team we played and definitely the smartest base-running,” Lehigh coach Sean Leary said. “They picked up some cues and ran with it.”
Shortstop Alex Bregman continued to climb LSU’s career and season stolen bases lists.
Bregman tied Jeff Reboulet for the fourth-most steals in a season by an LSU player with two Friday, increasing his season total to 34. Reboulet stole 34 in 1985. Bregman surpassed Russ Johnson for fourth all-time on LSU’s career list with 62 swiped bags.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.