Trey Dawson was unable to corral Connor McVey’s high chopper to begin the second inning of Saturday’s 4-0 win against Cincinnati.
Two batters later, starting pitcher Alex Lange lost Woody Wallace on a full count.
Lange faced a jam — the first of a sophomore season that many presume will be better than his first — as McVey stood at second and Wallace at first.
“That’s never good, honestly,” Lange said. “But I’m always focused anytime I step to the field. I know you’re not going to go out there and throw 27 pitches and get 27 outs and go sit down and the day’s over.
“It’s not how baseball works. You have to play with what you’re given and adjust to situations as they come.”
This solution required seven pitches. The first was an inside fastball clocked at 94 mph. So was the third. Sandwiched between them was another heater, this one at 92 mph.
Cincinnati center fielder Treg Haberkorn guessed another would come. He was incorrect, relegated to watching Lange’s 12-to-6 curveball fall from the air and settle into Mike Papierski’s glove for a second out.
Teammate A.J. Bumpass followed and endured similar struggles. Just three pitches long, his at-bat ended with a backfoot breaking ball, eliciting a wild swing and miss — emblematic of the kind of day Cincinnati’s offense had against Lange.
“That’s how I get out,” Lange said. “Whenever I have the opportunity to use it, I’m going to and I can get ahead of guys and put them away, I’m going to do that.”
Lange put away the Bearcats, flashing the curve consistently at 82 to 84 mph to compliment his fastball, which reached as high as 94 mph. He allowed just one hit — a single up the middle to Devin Wenzel — and erased it on a pickoff moments later.
Nine Bearcats struck out, most of them victims of the curveball, and Lange’s only hiccups were three walks, all of which came on full counts.
“That is a big-league, overhand, hard curveball,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “That’s the great equalizer.”
As its ace purred, a reconfigured LSU lineup made progress. Mainieri shuffled his batting order, primarily to get freshman Antoine Duplantis from seventh to second, similar to where he hit in preseason practice. That in turn scrambled the middle of his order after Friday night’s 0-for-12 effort from the Nos. 4-5-6 hitters in a 6-5, 12-inning win.
Greg Deichmann, who was 0-for-3 batting fifth Friday, was penciled in seventh. Before Friday, he hadn’t made a collegiate start or gathered a collegiate hit.
Friday took care of one benchmark. Saturday shattered the other.
Deichmann crushed Cincinnati starter Mitch Patishall’s 1-2 changeup for a 421-foot, one-out solo homer to the right field Diamond Deck in his first at-bat, putting LSU up 2-0 and giving Lange all the run support he needed after Jake Fraley scored on a first-inning wild pitch.
“It’s early in the season. We’re still trying to find our identity as a team. We’re still trying to get a feel for the lineup,” Deichmann said. “There’s a little bit of pressing. But I was able to get that first one off, and it was like a weight off (my) shoulders.
LSU squandered two Cole Freeman hits, stranding him in scoring position in both the second and fourth innings, before the top of the order manufactured two fifth-inning insurance runs.
Kramer Robertson walked to lead off the fifth, and Duplantis rocketed a single up the middle but was cut down on Fraley’s fielder’s choice.
At the corners with one out, Beau Jordan sent a sacrifice fly to right field to score Robertson. Bryce Jordan followed with a slow roller through a shifted infield, scoring Fraley.
“I believe we’re in that position to (drive in runs),” Beau Jordan said. “So it’s not asking too much, but it was a big turn of events. (Hitting) coach Andy (Cannizaro) got us in the dugout and said ‘Hey, we’ve got to score more runs. Two runs isn’t enough; they could come back.’
“We had a big inning, and everything turned around.”
Caleb Gilbert and Jesse Stallings — two more mid-90s pitchers — threw 2.1 scoreless innings in relief of Lange, combining to surrender just three hits with four strikeouts.
“To be honest with you, we kind of overpowered them today with the three arms we threw at them,” Mainieri said. “Kind of a businesslike performance today. Wasn’t as exciting as last night, thank goodness.”