Poche dazzles as LSU clinches series

Jared Poche didn't look like a freshman Saturday as he led the Tigers to a series-clinching, 2-1 victory against Georgia. Poche surrendered just one run in 8 2/3 innings for the first SEC win of his career.

After an erratic pregame bullpen session, Jared Poche felt he'd have his "worst outing ever" Saturday against Georgia.

He couldn't have been more wrong.

The freshman — making his second career SEC start — surrendered only one run in 8 2/3 innings, with six strikeouts on just three hits to clinch the series with a 2-1 victory. After a disappointing conference debut last week against Vanderbilt, Poche rebounded nicely and showed off what made him Louisiana's Gatorade Player of the Year as a high school senior.

"I struggled a little bit last week, and I just wanted to get back to myself and throw a lot of strikes," Poche said. "The command on my fastball was huge tonight…I definitely felt dominant."

Poche didn't allow a base runner through the first three innings. He walked the leadoff man to start the fourth, but he was quickly erased with a double play. Poche retired six straight after that free pass, and Georgia didn't record its first hit until the sixth inning on an infield single.

The Bulldogs (14-10, 1-4) would score in that frame, but it was the only blemish on an otherwise lively night in Alex Box Stadium.

"We needed to have someone other than Aaron Nola win a game for us," Mainieri said. "And I'll sleep well tonight knowing that Jared Poche's on our team."

The Tigers (20-4, 3-2) needed a performance like that out of Poche, as the LSU offense failed to get much off Georgia freshman Robert Tyler.

LSU did manage to scrape together an early 1-0 lead, albeit with a little help from the Bulldog defense. Sean McMullen opened the inning with a leadoff triple, lacing a 97 mph fastball into the right field corner. Alex Bregman would walk with one out to put runners on the corners for Kade Scivicque.

He drilled one to the shortstop, but the second baseman bobbled the throw and couldn't execute what would've been an inning-ending double play. McMullen scored to put LSU ahead after one frame.

"We got a couple of breaks really," Mainieri said. "In these tight ballgames, the game comes down to one or two little things like that and it came out in our favor today."

LSU would only get one more unearned run off Tyler the rest of the way. He took the loss but went 7 2/3 innings, allowing only five hits with four strikeouts.

"You're probably looking at one of the next really outstanding pitchers in the SEC," Mainieri said of the Georgia freshman. "That kid was throwing 96 mph in the eighth inning after he was over 100 pitches. Once his secondary pitches develop, you'll be talking about a top caliber SEC pitcher."

But it was LSU's talented freshman that stole the show as the two runs were all the cushion he needed to complete the win. Though Georgia struck for one in the sixth, Poche retired the side in order in the seventh and eighth, and returned for the ninth with a chance for the complete game.

He struck out the first batter in the inning, but the next hitter laced a first-pitch single to right-center field. Poche induced a ground ball in the next at-bat, but the runner barely beat the relay to avoid what would've been the game-ending double play.

"I wanted to stay in," Poche said. "I went 8 2/3, so why not one more out? But that's Coach's call and I respect it. He's not looking at just one game. It's a long season."

Joe Broussard picked up where Poche left off, striking out the final batter on just three pitches to seal the victory.

That win gives LSU its first SEC series victory of the season, and the Tigers will go for the sweep Sunday at noon.

"Any win you get in the SEC is a good win," said Mark Laird, who went 3-for-4 with a RBI. "Winning the series is an accomplishment, but tomorrow is the day we prove we're a championship team."

Mainieri said after the game he isn't sure who'll get the start, as Kyle Bouman is unavailable with an injured ankle. But after dominant starts from both Poche and Aaron Nola this weekend, Mainieri has options available to piece together the series finale.

"It's a tough situation because our third starting pitcher is out," Mainieri said. "So we're going to have to figure something out for tomorrow."


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