HOOVER, Ala. — Alex Lange has a chance to send LSU to a championship game in consecutive weekends.
Lange will start when top-ranked LSU (48-9) hosts Florida (42-16) on Saturday afternoon in the Southeastern Conference tournament semifinals, and coach Paul Mainieri wants the right-handed pitcher to start in the Tigers’ second game of the NCAA regionals next week.
What’s the rookie from Missouri say about that?
“I just take it in stride,” he said. “Each game is bigger than the last one.”
That’s for sure.
Lange, the SEC freshman of the year, is regaining his old form at the right time. He’s rebounded from a month-long of so-so starts to shut down teams in his last two outings. He’s struck out 17, walked five, and allowed three hits and two runs in his last two starts – a span covering 12 innings.
He’s in line to pitch LSU’s second game next Saturday in the Baton Rouge NCAA regional – presumably the winner’s bracket final if LSU can win the first game against a No. 4 seed.
Mainieri suggested he’d “pitch off” against a No. 4 seed, saving Lange for that second game and Jared Poché, presumably, in Game 3, the regional title game.
“Lange for Game 2 assuming he throws well tomorrow,” Mainieri said. “You’d like if you get to a winner bracket game and can pitch off in Game 1, (but), hey, I don’t even know who we’re playing!”
The full NCAA field is announced at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.
Lange’s got his groove back, pitching coach Alan Dunn and Lange said, since elbow tightness forced him to miss a start in mid-April.
“When you miss reps of your work and you kind of get out of your routine, get out of your feel,” Dunn said. “Took him a couple of starts to get back on the mound and get his release point down and feel and command.”
Said Lange, 10-0 with a 2.11 ERA: “Feeling my rhythm and timing more. Fastball is feeling good out of my hand.”
Tigers vs. the Gators
LSU and Florida finally get to play.
The two teams didn’t meet in the 10-series regular season. The anticipated matchup pits two of the best in the conference. No. 1-seeded Tigers and No. 4-seeded Gators are the top ranked teams in the SEC in four of the six major college baseball polls.
LSU is the consensus No. 1 ranked team, and Florida is ranked No. 6 in four polls. It’s a rematch of last year’s SEC championship game – a pitching duel that LSU won 2-0.
The Gators swept the series from LSU last season, and the Tigers hold a 57-42-1 all-time record in the series.
Poché is likely to see time on the mound if LSU advances to Sunday’s championship game. The sophomore lefty threw just 35 pitches in a one-inning start Wednesday. He allowed five runs, two earned, three hits and walked two. … Shortstop Alex Bregman was named one of 21 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top college baseball player. Finalists will be announced June 2 and a winner will be named on June 23.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.