OMAHA, Neb. — Against a left-handed-heavy team, LSU will use its own lefty.
Sophomore southpaw Jared Poché will get the start in the Tigers’ College World Series opener at 2 p.m. Sunday against TCU. LSU’s freshman ace, Alex Lange, is scheduled to pitch in the second game Tuesday.
“Definitely a dream come true for me to be able to pitch at this level, go out there and try to get us off to a good start,” said Poché, a Lutcher native.
Poché (9-1, 2.91 ERA) will face a TCU lineup that includes five left-handed batters — one of a handful of reasons coach Paul Mainieri made the decision. Also, Mainieri said, Poché bounces back from shorter rest better, and he’s got a year more experience — all reasons the coach decided on Poché over Lange (11-0, 1.89 ERA), the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year.
Poché could be available for possible games Friday and Saturday and could pitch again the following Wednesday in the if-necessary third game of the best-of-three national championship series, Mainieri said.
Lange now gets a chance to watch from the dugout and prepare for what could be the most pivotal game of LSU’s run to the title series.
If LSU (53-10) wins Sunday, it would play the Vanderbilt-Cal State Fullerton winner Tuesday night. The winner of that game must get beaten twice — Friday and Saturday — to fall short of the championship series.
All three other teams in LSU’s four-team CWS pod — TCU, Vanderbilt and Fullerton — are throwing their aces in Game 1. LSU will face TCU’s Preston Morrison, a senior right-hander with a record of 11-3 and an ERA of 2.55.
The Horned Frogs (49-13) get a lefty in Poché, and they’re used to that, coach Jim Schlossnagle said.
“When in doubt, the other coach normally picks the left-hander,” Schlossnagle said. “We’ve seen that all season long, and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Three of TCU’s top four hitters are lefties, and a fourth is switch-hitter Cody Jones, who has a team-leading .371 batting average.
“Tradition says left on left, right on right (is) advantage to the pitcher. We’ll see,” Poché said.
Poché said lefty batters “see the ball a little later” out of his hand.
“It’s a game where you’re always looking for matchups,” pitching coach Alan Dunn said. “Just because left-handed hitters don’t have any opportunities to see a lot of left-handed pitching throughout the course of the season, that obviously puts you in an advantage, but you still have to execute pitches.”
Poché has done that lately. He has allowed 11 hits and one earned run in his past two starts — a span of 16.1 innings. Poché has struck out 15 and walked two in those games — both key NCAA postseason duels.
He got the win in the Tigers’ 2-0 victory in the NCAA regional championship and was on the mound for the 6-3 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in the super regional title game.
Before those two starts, Poché had allowed 11 runs in his previous 11.2 innings.
Mainieri and hitting coach Andy Cannizaro said Poché’s command of his breaking pitchers — curveball and changeup — have been the difference.
Poché said it’s the situation.
“Postseason,” he said. “It’s win or go home.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.