GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Through five starts, LSU senior Jared Poché was nearly untouchable.
That string of peerless pitching was bound to end one day. Saturday against Florida was that day.
The Gators handed Poché his first loss this season, knocking the left-hander out of the game before he could record an out in the fifth inning.
“Poché was just off today,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He wasn’t crisp at all with his command and he struggled, and we didn’t help him. We had an error and a (pitch) in the dirt that maybe could’ve been stopped. It was just one of those days for us.”
The command that had been Poché’s calling card through the first five weeks evaded him against the Gators.
He entered Saturday having issued just four walks in 36 innings. He doubled his season total with four walks in four innings Saturday.
Poché only hit one batter all season before facing the Gators. He plunked two in one inning Saturday, the first coming on an 0-2 pitch and the second bringing home a run with the bases loaded.
“A lot of times he’ll go three balls on hitters and come back and pump strikes, eventually get them out. Today, he obviously didn’t,” Mainieri said. “He walked four batters and hit two, one with the bases loaded. That’s just not him. For the first time all year, really, he had a rough go of it.”
The other problem: When Poché found the pitch he was looking for, Florida often had the swing to answer.
“That’s baseball. Not much to dwell on with that,” Poché said. “My fastball command was off a little bit. Tip my cap to them; they hit some good pitches. I didn’t make all that many mistakes today, but they hit some good pitches.”
The Gators put pressure on Poché often. They put the leadoff runner aboard in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings, and each time that runner came around to score.
Poché said that amounted to a cardinal sin when it comes to LSU’s pitching philosophy.
“You’ve got to get the leadoff hitter out,” Poché said. “It makes it a lot harder on a pitcher with a leadoff hit or a leadoff walk, something like that. I didn’t execute enough to start the inning and the guys scored.
“That kind of set the tone for the rest of the game. I’ll put that one on my shoulders.”
Poché wasn’t the only one to get in trouble in this regard. After Poché was pulled, the Gators had two more leadoff hitters get on base and eventually score, giving them six in eight offensive innings.
Mainieri felt early on that Poché didn’t have his best stuff Saturday.
“He just didn’t seem in good rhythm at all,” Mainieri said. “He looked like he was laboring. I asked him after the third or fourth inning, ‘Are you feeling OK?’ ... He seemed to be taking a lot of time between pitches and he usually works fast.”
The senior has been through rough outings before, though. If his command and feel left him during the game, his composure didn’t afterward.
Wearing his usual inscrutable look, Poché summed up his day by saying, “It wasn’t as good as it’s been in the past. Nothing much to dwell on today. It’s just baseball.”