He showed up to Alex Box Stadium, and those jitters were still present as he started his pregame routine before the showdown with Kansas. The adrenaline kept pumping as he fired off his warm-up pitches before his first collegiate game.
“If you’re not nervous for this, not excited for this,” Lange said, “then you shouldn’t be playing baseball.”
Once he fired off that first pitch of his LSU career though — a 95 mph strike — all nerves disappeared. The rest was smooth sailing, as Lange earned his first win with a shutout performance through five innings, seven strikeouts and only two hits.
It was quite the debut for the headlining member of LSU’s 2014 class.
“You couldn’t tell it was his first career start,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “That was an amazing performance. It’s almost scary to think how good this kid can be.”
Lange still has a long way to go before he’s crowned the next Kevin Gausman or Aaron Nola. This was only the first of many starts he’ll make for the Tigers.
But what a way to introduce yourself to the LSU faithful.
Lange consistently sat at 93 mph with his fastball, proving to be the power arm LSU desperately wanted. But he wasn’t just blowing bats away. He turned often to his devastating curve, one that hits the mid-80s on the radar gun, and a changeup that’s also harder than most.
He used that “off-speed” stuff for six of his seven strikeouts.
“The breaking ball’s been an out pitch for me for a while,” Lange said. “Coach Dunn’s had confidence, and we kept going to it. They were chasing it. If you get ahead in counts with the fastball, then you can put them away with the curveball.”
Lange’s big night started with the first batter he faced. He struck out the leadoff man with four pitches, then proceeded to strike out six through three innings.
“That’s a big confidence boost for your first start,” he said. “When we get them down to two strikes, we try to put them away. I was able to do that today, so I was very happy about that.”
Rarely did he ever face any trouble either. Only two base runners reached scoring position against him. A walked batter in the second inning stole a bag, but Lange struck out the next two to strand him there. He retired two straight after a one-out double in the fifth, once again leaving a Jayhawk on the bases.
Lange probably could’ve gone longer had he been given the option. Mainieri opted to pull him after the fifth, sticking to the plan of not extending him past 80 pitches. Lange finished with 71, 45 for strikes.
“It was just the right time to take him out of the game,” Mainieri said. “He really battled in the fifth inning to pitch out of that jam. I wanted him to go out on a positive note.”
LSU fans won’t have to wait much longer to see him on the mound again. He’s expected to take the rubber Friday night against Boston College.
So what does he have in store for his encore? Lange still wants to come down from this high before he starts thinking ahead.
“I’ll remember this moment forever,” Lange said. “It was a great experience for me, just a lot of fun. There are a lot of emotions right now, so I’m really overwhelmed.”