HOUSTON — Jared Poché was going to shave his mustache, which has been growing since February18, after he gave up his first hit of the season in the ninth inning the previous Saturday against Maryland.
Instead, LSU coach Paul Mainieri made a suggestion to Poché.
“He gave me a little laugh and said, ‘I tell you what, you can keep it as long as you don’t give up another run,’ ” Poché said.
Poché’s razor will remain unused for one more week.
After a disappointing beginning to the weekend at Minute Maid Park, LSU had the luxury of handing the ball to Poché to right the ship’s course.
The senior left-hander was masterful for the third time in as many appearances. He was the stabilizing force while LSU (9-2) took time to snap out of its offensive slumber in a 4-0 win. It was the 30th career win for Poché (3-0), the sixth pitcher in LSU history to reach that milestone.
“That’s vintage Poché,” Mainieri said. “That’s what he does.”
It was the first loss of the season for Baylor (10-1), which had been on an offensive tear before running into the methodical buzzsaw that is Poché.
Poché, who followed a no-hitter in his first start by taking a no-hitter into the ninth inning in his second start, would not flirt with a no-hitter this time. Baylor third baseman Steven McLean roped the second pitch of the game into the right field corner.
“I guess it’s just the way baseball works,” Poché said. “Fortunately I was able to keep him from scoring.”
It was smooth sailing after that. Poché retired the side in order four times and never allowed a runner — including McLean — past second base as he shut out the Baylor lineup in seven sterling innings.
Poché’s performance allowed LSU’s offense to scuffle before finally breaking through.
“That’s huge; that’s who Jared Poché is,” said shortstop Kramer Robertson, who recorded the final out of Poché’s outing when he dove into the stands — over teammate Josh Smith — to catch a foul ball.
Through four innings against Baylor right-hander Montana Parsons, LSU couldn’t muster much, with just two soft hits and barely even a loud out. Parsons had faced just two over the minimum by the time LSU came to bat in the fifth inning.
But that was where his string of good fortune ended.
Freshman Jake Slaughter led off the inning with a sharp single through the right side, and was followed by Jordan Romero yanking an offspeed pitch on the outer edge of the plate through the left side of the infield for a single of his own.
That set up a clutch situation for Cole Freeman, who drilled a 2-2 pitch into left-center field with two outs to score Slaughter for the go-ahead run. Antoine Duplantis followed with a single to right field that scored Romero with the help of a throw that took the catcher up the line.
LSU tacked on some insurance with a two-run sixth, with one run coming courtesy of Greg Deichmann, who launched his fifth homer of the year approximately seven rows deep into the right field seats to lead off the inning.
“Greg Deichmann is turning awesome before our very eyes,” Mainieri said. “… He’s swinging the bat really, really well, and I see no reason for that to change.”
Caleb Gilbert fired two shutout innings to close out the win. Poché heard Gilbert’s slider checked in at 89 miles per hour Saturday — likely faster than a healthy chunk of Poché’s fastballs.
But velocity doesn’t appear to matter. Poché has now started the season by throwing 22 consecutive scoreless innings. He has allowed a total of six base runners in those innings, and LSU has outscored opponents 24-0 in games he has pitched.
“I don’t know,” Mainieri said when asked why Poché has been able to do what he’s done through three starts. “They just seem to slightly mis-hit him.”
The Tigers return to action at 10 a.m. Sunday morning to face No. 10 Texas Tech in their tournament finale.