OMAHA, Neb. — Maybe Jared Poché figured this would happen, but he definitely didn’t see it coming this way.
Sure, he probably saw himself following Alex Lange to go on and match LSU’s all-time wins record; he just didn’t envision himself following Lange in the same game.
Winning the game in a relief appearance is not exactly vintage Poché, the man who has started more games than any current college pitcher — but it’s what he did Saturday night against Florida State in the Tigers' opening game of the College World Series.
“We would have expected that he would have won his record win (in starts) against Texas Southern or Mississippi State, but I guess he wanted to save it for a more exciting time here in Omaha,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
The senior left-hander earned his second career win in relief, his 11th win of the season and his 38th career win, matching Scott Schultz for LSU’s all-time record.
He had an idea that his number may be called out of the bullpen in Saturday’s game last week, when Mainieri informed him that he would likely roll with freshman right-hander Eric Walker on Monday in the Tigers' second game of the CWS.
“We kind of talked about it throughout the week, just to be ready,” Poché said. “Coach told me what his thoughts were. And obviously I'm all for it at this point in the season. Whatever I can do to help the team, I want to do it.”
With Lange having a bit of a shaky outing, Poché made his first trip to the bullpen in the fifth inning. He would not enter the game until the seventh, with LSU trailing 4-3, after Lange put the leadoff batter aboard on a hit by pitch.
He had been in this type of position before. Against Rice last season in the Baton Rouge regional, Poché made his first career relief appearance and wound up logging six brilliant innings, stabilizing the game and giving the LSU lineup time to scratch together a rally.
He did the same thing Saturday night, only on a much bigger stage.
Poché allowed two hits and did not walk a batter in 2.2 scoreless innings. He was cruising along so comfortably that, when LSU rallied to take a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, Mainieri decided to let Poché try to finish it rather than going to his lights-out bullpen arms right away.
“I thought Poché was really sharp tonight,” Mainieri said. “And he's such a veteran, and he's such a confident guy. And … seven, eight, nine (in the FSU order) were coming up. And I thought Jared could do the job there.”
Poché was unable to finish, turning it over to freshman Zack Hess with two outs. But, as Poché will often remind anyone wishing to pat him on the back for matching the record, his teammates were there to back him up.
Hess closed the game, making Poché the winner. It did not go down like he was expecting, but he’ll take it.
“Obviously been thinking about it all year and been hoping that it would happen obviously the last two weeks,” Poché said. “But I guess God had a better plan and wanted it to happen in Omaha. So I'm excited. Definitely didn't think it was going to happen with me coming out of the bullpen.”
Poché's next appearance could be as a starter: Mainieri said Sunday that, if LSU loses to Oregon State on Monday, the southpaw would start Wednesday in an elimination game against Cal State Fullerton or Florida State.