LSU (50-18) defeated Florida State (46-23) 7-4 to eliminate the Seminoles from the College World Series Wednesday night.
With the news of Eric Walker out for the rest of the CWS, the Tigers needed a strong showing from Jared Poche’ and they got one. Not only did Poche’ keep Florida State away from LSU on the scoreboard, but he went deep into the ballgame, saving the bullpen in the process. Poche’ very nearly went the distance but was pulled after back to back home runs made the game tighter than it needed to be. He ended the night with eight innings pitched where he gave up four runs, three earned with two coming in the ninth inning. Poche’ struck out four and walked two while surrendering seven hits.
With his outing Poche’ set the LSU career wins record with 39, besting Scott Schultz’s 38. Despite how inaccurate the stat is at indicating how successful a pitcher is, that record is indicative of the fact that Poche’ spent four years pitching well enough to put LSU in a position to win 39 times, and the last two could not have been any bigger. Saturday Poche’ came out of the pen and shut down Florida State to open a window for LSU’s eighth inning rally to tie the record before breaking it tonight.
“If you would have told me four years ago before I started my career at LSU that in four short years that you're going to be in Omaha and you're going to break the all-time wins record, you know, there's no way I would have believed that,” Poche’ said before getting humble. “This record is definitely not an individual award. Having guys like Kramer (Robertson) and Alex Bregman and all those guys behind me over the course of my career making play after play, picking me up on defense and scoring runs from games I throw, I couldn't have done it without those guys. I see this more of a team award, and I guess I'll just get the credit for it.”
“There's nobody more deserving, there's nobody who has been as unselfish, more of a team guy than Jared Poché, and you love that,” Robertson said. “I can remember the first time I saw him, talked to him, I couldn't understand him. I didn't know what he was trying to say to me. First time I saw him on the mound, I knew he was the real deal and he had something special. He has more than just ability to pitch. He's got something else inside him that makes him special, and there's a reason that he's won more games than anybody else, to put on this jersey.”
“It's been an honor to be his teammate and I'm going to be forever thankful for that.”
Both teams went up and down in order to start the game, but LSU exploded for five runs in the second to open the scoring on the night. LSU opened the inning with a double from Greg Deichmann and a single from Zach Watson. Watson stole second and Josh Smith put LSU on the board when he singled to right field and Beau Jordan squeezed Watson home to put LSU ahead 2-0. Michael Papierski reached on an error, setting Jake Slaughter up for a three-run home run to left center field. Slaughter was a surprise addition to the lineup after Nick Coomes had started LSU’s two prior games in Omaha off of a return from a hand injury.
“Coomes has done some really good things.” Mainieri said about starting Slaughter. “He had two hits the first game and Jake hit the three-run homer today. I guess you could call it a gut feeling. I like the matchup of Jake against their starting pitcher better than I like Coomes against their starting pitcher today.”
“I was just so happy for him,” Kramer Robertson said. “He's worked so hard. And he got a good pitch to hit and he did his job. And when I saw the ball go over the fence, I couldn't help but smile and be happy for him. I understand how it feels to have your ups and downs, and for him to have a high like that is pretty special. I'm excited for him.”
“What a moment in that young man's life to hit a three-run homer at TD Ameritrade Park in the College World Series on national television in front of 22,000 people,” Mainieri added. “Believe it or not, Jake, moments continue to get better than this.”
LSU had jumped out to a 5-0 lead, but Florida State got a run back with a solo shot from Drew Mendoza in the bottom half of the inning to put the Seminoles in the game.
FSU tacked on a run in the sixth that was unearned to crawl closer. Cole Freeman airmailed the short throw to first base and allowed Dylan Busby on base before Jackson Lueck hit a double down the left field line to move Busby to third. Busby scored on a sac fly from Quincy Nieporte that was nearly a three run shot. The Noles threatened, but that unearned run was all that they would get for now.
Kramer Robertson finally got his first hit in Omaha in the top of the ninth and he made the most of it, manufacturing an insurance run with the assistance of the top part of the lineup by stealing second, then moving to third on a Freeman bunt and finally scoring on an infield single from Antoine Duplantis. A Zach Watson double gave LSU an extra insurance run and put the Tigers up 7-2 going into the ninth.
Those two extra runs would be huge as Nieporte and Cal Raleigh opened up the bottom half of the inning with back to back homers off of Poche’, both no-doubters to left field. All of a sudden the game that was very much in hand for LSU became a tight save situation.
That would end Poche’s day, but out of the pen would come Zack Hess in what suddenly became a high leverage situation. Hess answered the call in dominant fashion as his pitches were downright not suitable for cable television and he struck out the side with some sick filth to close out the game.
LSU advances to a rematch with Oregon State Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. The Beavers sent LSU to the loser’s bracket by punking them 13-1 Monday night and in order to reach the finals, LSU must beat the Beavers twice in a row, once on Friday and once on Sunday. Alex Lange will pitch Friday for LSU.