COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Skipping off the field after the fifth inning Thursday night at Blue Bell Park, Jared Poché pumped both fists, yelling into the air, as if to will an offensive rally that, as it turned out, never materialized in a 6-1 loss to Texas A&M.
Seconds earlier, Poché stared into Nick Banks, a power hitter who will likely contend Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors.
The LSU left-hander, pitching on four days’ rest, fell behind in the count 2-0. Banks’ next swing was popup to shallow right field, leaving the bases loaded and getting Poché out of another predicament on a night when his dogged effort was derailed by thwarted threats and a shaky bullpen.
“I was thinking it’d be a big momentum swing for us,” Poche said. “Ended up getting a run that inning, hoping to get a little more than that.”
Five pitches after Poché’s escape, Jake Fraley began the sixth with a deep fly ball that Banks lost in the right-field twilight, falling near the base of the wall for a triple.
Fraley scored LSU’s only run four pitches later when Antoine Duplantis took a 1-2 pitch from Aggies starter Jace Vines up the middle for a single — just the fifth hit the Tigers mustered off the A&M sinkerballer who was also returning on four days’ rest.
Duplantis was easily caught stealing second shortly thereafter, the victim of a precisely timed pitchout, an another eradication of an LSU rally.
Another mistake came with the Tigers down 2-1 in the seventh, when a leadoff walk to Bryce Jordan chased Vines from the mound.
Greg Deichmann roped a two-strike single off reliever Brigham Hill, but Deichmann but was cut down on Cole Freeman’s fielder’s choice, which moved Jordan to third as the potential tying run.
Both were stranded on Kramer Robertson’s two-out popout to left — the Tigers’ fifth and sixth runners stranded on the evening. LSU hit 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and was 3-for-16 with runners on base. It had runners in all but two innings.
“Good teams find a way to knock those two-out runs in. And we just didn’t do it again tonight. We’re going to keep battling; we’re so close,” Robertson said. “We’re very close to being exactly where we want to be and we’re going to stay the course and get to where we want to be. I have all the confidence in the world in the guys in this dugout. We’re going to be OK, I promise you.”
Still within 2-1, LSU’s bullpen surrendered four runs in the final two innings — two apiece by Doug Norman and Parker Bugg, who walked three, including Banks with the bases loaded just after allowing a Boomer White single to make it 3-1.
The lanky right-hander with a trademark slider saw his ERA rise to 8.49 with the nightmarish outing. He has now walked eight hitters in 7.1 innings.
Poché threw 59 pitches through his first three innings, stranding a runner in scoring position with an inning-ending strikeout in each frame. He put two runners on base before an out was recorded in each of the first two innings, but managed to allow just the two runs.
“Looking back, this outing was probably one of my better fastball command (outings),” Poche said. “I located it well all night, despite a few walks, but as far as controlling the zone I felt really good tonight.”
J.B. Moss led off the game with a single and advanced on a dirt breaking ball that LSU catcher Mike Papierski couldn’t block. He’s end up scoring the game’s first run on Hunter Melton’s sacrifice fly.
LSU, too, had a first inning chance. Fraley chopped a sinker up the middle for a one-out single and promptly stole second, where he appeared to hurt his collarbone on the slide.
He was checked by LSU trainer Cory Couture and Paul Mainieri but stayed in the game, getting picked off seconds later.
“Those are just fundamental things you can’t do in a game like this,” Mainieri said. “(Poche) threw the ball good, competed hard. But you’re not going to get a lot of runs off their pitching staff and you got to just play better. It wasn’t that we didn’t play hard, it wasn’t that we we didn’t try -- I didn’t think we played that poorly -- it was just a couple of things you know.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome.