In Alex Lange’s past two starts, subpar by his standards, the LSU sophomore right-hander’s curveball wasn’t thrown for strikes. Compounding the problem, too, was his propensity to fall behind hitters and rely on his fastball, which he had issues commanding.
Saturday’s 9-3, series-tying win against Ball State didn’t remedy all of these miscues. Lange, who picked up his second win, walked four in six innings and still struggled to command his pitches. He threw noticeably more first-pitch curveballs, though, and was able to better get ahead of his opponents, which plagued him last weekend against Fordham.
“They were laying off of it, kind of like last weekend. They were just going to spit on the breaking ball, so I really needed to focus on throwing it for a strike,” Lange said. “And when you throw it for a strike, they’re going to have to respect the breaking ball late in counts, too.”
Ball State third baseman Colin Brockhouse faced Lange in the fourth inning while two of his teammates stood at second and third and the Cardinals clung to a 2-1 lead. Lange threw that 84-mph curveball for a strike, before following with a fastball to get ahead 0-2.
Three pitches later, Lange got a swing and miss on the breaking ball, quelling a threat to get his offense back to the plate.
It’d be a while before they left.
Following Lange’s punchout, LSU manufactured a 40-minute, eight-run fourth inning where it sent eight batters to the plate and cycled through three Cardinals pitchers before Ball State recorded an out.
“When (Lange) got out of that, I called everybody into the dugout and tried to fire everybody up,” Kramer Robertson said, “saying he was battling for us and he deserved better from us and everyone needs to win their at-bats and get it to the next guy and do their job.”
Added LSU coach Paul Mainieri: “That really inspired our team, to be honest with you.”
Greg Deichmann drove in the inning’s first two runs on Ball State reliever BJ Butler’s first pitch, scorching it back up the middle for a single that brought home Beau and Bryce Jordan. It was one of seven singles in the inning, four of which drove in runs.
Two batters later, with the bases still loaded, Cole Freeman chopped a ball so deep in the hole that shortstop Sean Kennedy had no play at any base as Mike Papierski ambled home.
The lineup now turned over, Robertson and Jake Fraley delivered consecutive two-run singles that erased any hope for Ball State and pushed what was a 4-3 game to 8-3. LSU sent 13 batters to the plate in the inning, when Bryce Jordan had two hits and Papierski had an at-bat from each side of the plate.
“Like (hitting coach Andy Cannizaro) always says, just get it to the next guy,” Bryce Jordan said. “We just came up with some clutch hits when we needed them, started rallying and feeding off each other. We knew that’s what we’re capable of doing, and that’s why we’re never out of the game.”
Lange loaded the bases in the fifth with a two-out walk, single and hit by pitch to blame before fanning Kennedy on a breaking ball in the dirt — his fifth and final strikeout.
He exited an inning later, after he retired the Cardinals in order for just the second time, allowing three earned runs over six innings of five-hit baseball.
“(I’m) trying to pitch in the clutch and get back to what I did last year,” Lange said. “I’m really, really excited. I think there’s a lot of good things going on in this team. Got areas we have to improve on and get better for next weekend and try to get better for the long haul and SEC.
“But I’m happy where I’m at right now.”