Jared Poché found a way to do exactly that. He threw 8 2/3 scoreless innings Monday as LSU shut out UNC-Wilimington for the second straight game in a 2-0 victory to advance in the NCAA Tournament.
Poché nearly went the distance and struck out a career-high eight batters to lift his team to a Super Regional.
LSU will host Louisiana-Lafayette in the next round this weekend.
“It’s pretty indescribable to be honest,” Poché said. “Walking off the field, with all those fans cheering, I couldn’t help but have a little grin.”
Poché needed that bounce-back performance. He’d given up a combined 11 runs in his previous two starts. He failed to get out of the first inning the last time he took the mound in the SEC Tournament.
“People asked why I stuck with Poché,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “It’s because I know what this kid is made of. I knew Jared Poché would go out there and be a man, and he was.”
He took advantage of the extra rest.
Poché did give up a hit to the first batter he faced, but UNCW didn’t have much success after that. Poché struck out the next three and only gave up six hits in the game.
Only one runner reached third base against him, and UNCW had just one hit with runners on base.
His biggest jam came in the second inning, when UNCW had runners on the corners with one out, but Poché induced a pair of pop flies to escape it. UNCW would have only two more runners reach scoring position against him and neither scored.
Poché came one batter away from the second complete game in his career. He retired the first two batters he faced in the ninth, before UNCW first baseman Corey Dick launched a two-out double to end Poché’s day.
Parker Bugg replaced him, struck out the only batter he faced and completed the shutout.
“I just wanted to pound the zone, not give him anything free,” Bugg said. “I was fortunate enough to put him away.”
LSU had to have that strong pitching performance after another game of light run production. The Tigers had eight hits but scored only twice.
All of LSU’s runs came in the second inning and with two outs. Andrew Stevenson reached on an error and advanced to second on a balk. Chris Chinea drove him in with a double down the left field line, and Jake Fraley made it 2-0 with a single to score Chinea.
“We had to battle all game, both games,” Chinea said. “We only scored four runs in two games, but it was enough because of horses like Alex Lange and Jared Poché.”
LSU vowed to have a better showing at the plate against ULL.
“There’s a maturity about them,” Mainieri said. “Even if things aren’t going great, they still have the amazing presence and fortitude to just keeping playing the game hard.”
LSU won its 21st regional championship in program history Monday. The Tigers will host ULL in a best-of-three series for a chance to go to the College World Series.
It would be the second time in three years if LSU can reach Omaha.
Fans can book their flights if LSU gets anything close to the outings of Lange and Poché in the regional.
“We have 51 wins in our back pocket and are trying to make it 53 so we can get another trip to Omaha,” Mainieri said. “It’s going to be an exciting week.”