Paul Mainieri hoped to have the old Alex Lange return to the mound Friday night against Vanderbilt.
After the first inning, Mainieri got him.
Lange battled back from a nightmarish 39-pitch first half-inning, eventually striking out nine in a 6.1-inning start to lead LSU past Vanderbilt 3-2.
Lange coasted after that 18-minute first inning, at one point retiring 12 straight. His 118-pitch, two-run stay helped the Tigers (21-9, 6-5 Southeastern Conference) secure their first series win over Vanderbilt (24-6, 6-4) in Mainieri’s tenure. They toppled the nation’s No. 2-ranked squad on Thursday night, 13-4, in the series opener.
Lange dazzled after that first frame Friday. Pitching coach Alan Dunn and Lange adjusted their philosophy following the opening inning, Dunn said.
Vanderbilt avoided swinging at Lange’s patented low-80s curveball. The Tigers adjusted. They went to the fastball after the first.
“From that point we adjusted the philosophy of what we were trying to do game wise,” Dunn said. “We tried a different approach. He’s got three quality pitches.”
Two of Lange’s three walks were issued in the first, and his two runs? That came in the first as well — to the very first batter of the game.
Ro Coleman sent Lange’s full-count pitch well over the right field fence for an opening home run continuing a rough patch. Lange, a freshman All-American last season who went 11-0 with a 1.97 ERA, entered the game with a 5.02 ERA, having walked 26 batters in 43 innings in a struggling start to his sophomore season.
Five of the six batters he faced in the first took him to full counts. Lange threw 20 balls and 19 strikes in the inning, struggling with his command. He threw a wild pitch, too, before settling in after he moved away from the curve.
Lange retired the side in the second, third and fourth.
“Hats off to those guys laying off the breaking ball,” Lange said. “I think they swung at one all night and the kid fouled it off. Their approach tonight was lay off the breaking ball and hit the hard stuff. I felt like we executed some changeups in good counts that really helped keep them off the fastball and threw some good curveballs for strikes.”
Football prospect visits Box
At 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, Austin Deculus looked out of place on Skip Bertman Field.
Deculus, a four-star tackle from Cypress, Texas, stopped by Alex Box Stadium before LSU’s game against Vanderbilt while on his unoffiical visit this weekend. The 12th-best offensive tackle in the 2017 class, Deculus towered over Mainieri during their brief meeting on the field about 15 minutes before first pitch.
Right fielder Antoine Duplantis extended his hitting streak to five games with a two-run single in the second inning. Duplantis started the season with a 19-game hitting streak. … With the win Friday, Mainieri has won a series against every SEC team in his LSU tenure.
Follow Ross Dellenger, @RossDellenger.