ATHENS, Ga. — LSU played a pair of aces Saturday.
The Tigers took home the whole pot.
Starters Alex Lange and Jared Poché threw 13 combined innings of nine-hit, two-run ball and LSU swept a doubleheader over Georgia with 4-1 and 9-1 wins, securing a Southeastern Conference road series in stifling fashion at Foley Field.
Said a smiling Parker Bugg of LSU’s two starters: “1A and 1B.”
Catcher Kade Scivicque had five hits in the two games, extending his hitting streak to a whopping 23 games, and Hunter Newman and Bugg – the only two relievers used in the twin bill – allowed just one base runner in five combined frames.
“Can’t do much better than that,” coach Paul Mainieri quipped.
The Tigers (34-6, 12-5 SEC) picked up victories that keep them no worse than 1½ games behind conference-leading Texas A&M heading into Sunday.
When the teams meet next week in Baton Rouge, it could be a No. 1-vs.-No. 2 showdown.
But, first, Game 3 in Athens. Well, maybe.
The teams will try to play a third game at noon Sunday despite a dreary forecast. There is 90 percent chance of thunderstorms during the day Sunday. LSU doesn’t have a travel curfew, but SEC travel rules prevent a game from starting after 4 p.m. A game cannot restart, if stopped, after 6 p.m.
Does Mainieri want to get Game 3 in? Sure does.
Because of a pair of starting gems and solid relief Saturday, LSU’s bullpen is fresh. The Tigers haven’t used closer Jesse Stallings, lead set-up man Zac Person or the jam-busting Alden Cartwright.
Austin Bain is set for the start against the Bulldogs, who limped out of Foley Field with little offensive confidence.
Georgia (20-20, 6-11) got its only two runs on solo homers Saturday, and the four LSU pitchers struck out a combined 13 UGA batters in an impressive showing in front of a rain-soaked, small crowd.
Lange moved to 7-0 with a five-hit, six-inning outing – a banging debut in LSU’s No. 1 starting role. And Poché? He didn’t seem dampened by a demotion to the No. 2 role.
His numbers were better: seven innings, four hits, five strikeouts and one walk.
Poché never faced more than four batters in any inning.
“I felt like I was coasting pretty good,” the sophomore said.
Mainieri made a long-awaited – for some – move this week, promoting Lange, the SEC’s leader in ERA, to his ace spot. That meant Poché, 7-1 now, dropped to No. 2.
“Whatever’s best for the team. I’m always for that,” Poché sad about the switch. “He feels that Alex can give us the best chance to win on Friday. That’s his decision. Still going to go out there and pitch my game and give them team a great chance to win whenever I throw.”
He did, starting in the second half of the doubleheader in intermittent spells of rain. Poché retired the side in the first and fifth innings and stranded a leadoff double in the fourth by retiring three straight – two on strikeouts.
“They’re both amazing pitchers,” said Bryce Jordan, who saw playing time for an injured Chris Chinea. “They’re both Friday guys. We can switch them or do whatever we want.”
Bugg followed Poché with a perfect final two innings, and Newman faced the minimum in the final three innings after Lange, getting the rare three-inning save in Game 1. Newman’s only base runner reached on an error in the ninth and he induced a game-ending double play.
Double aces and a bullpen? It resulted in a 13-2 combined sweep.
“Hopefully Bain will be emerging that way as well,” Mainieri said when asked about Lange and Poché. “You can’t win championships unless you have two really outstanding starting pitchers and a good bullpen to finish games off.”
Scivicque had a 3-for-3 Game 2 and was 5-for-7 in the doubleheader, driving in three runs and smoking a solo homer in the second game. Center fielder Andrew Stevenson, the owner of a pair of web gems in the first game, broke from his plate slumber with a three-hit second game, and Jordan even had two RBIs in that Game 2 rout.
Jordan replaced Chinea, who took a fastball to the chin in the sixth inning and needed four stitches. Jordan, a freshman, drew a bases-loaded walk and had an RBI double.
“Right when he got hit, I knew I was going to have to go to first and do the job,” Jordan said. “I’ve been struggling a bit, but I came in there and I got the pitch I needed.”
More often than not, Georgia didn’t. The Bulldogs batted a combined .145 against LSU’s four hurlers.
And the best part maybe, Mainieri says, “We haven’t used Person and Stallings yet.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.