Alex Lange embraces the CWS stage

Alex Lange is set to pitch the biggest game of his young career, but he's unfazed by the big stage, and LSU wouldn't rather send anyone else on the mound.

OMAHA, Neb. — LSU wishes the circumstances were different for Alex Lange’s first career start in the College World Series.

When Paul Mainieri made the decision to save Lange for Game 2, he hoped it would come with a chance to send LSU a win away from the finals. But after Sunday’s collapse against TCU, Lange will take the mound Tuesday trying to preserve the Tigers’ season.

Lange doesn’t feel any added pressure with the increased stakes.

“I don’t look at it as a chance to save the season,” Lange said. “It’s just one game at a time. I’m just trying to give my team a chance to play the next game.”

Mainieri and LSU players said Lange is the perfect pitcher to have on the mound in this type of game. He’s undefeated in his freshman season, and the Tigers are 14-2 in games he starts.

He’s thrown 17 innings in the NCAA Tournament, only allowing three runs with 23 strikeouts.

“If you had to give the ball to one guy to win a game, that’s the kid you’d give it to,” Mainieri said. “It gives our team a lift to know he’s getting the ball tomorrow to keep us alive.”

Every player echoed that same sentiment. Though only a freshman, Lange has earned every ounce of respect from his teammates. That they speak so confidently of him gives Lange great pride.

“It means a lot knowing these guys are behind me and will fight with me,” Lange said. “They’re not going to give anything away. I’m very honored to take this start for us, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Because rain postponed play Sunday night, Lange didn’t learn his opponent until late Monday afternoon. He’ll face a Cal State-Fullerton team that had a .265 team batting average leading the CWS.

The opponent doesn’t matter to Lange though. He’s just going to pitch the way he always has and make the hitters adjust to him, and not the other way around.

“I’m just going to stick to what I’ve done all year,” Lange said. “I pitch off my strengths and try to exploit their weaknesses at the right time.”

Lange won’t admit that this is the biggest game of his young career. He treats them all the same, regardless of what’s on the line.

He’s already pitched in a Major League stadium and in front of 10,000-plus crowds in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. The bright lights of TD Ameritrade have crippled others, but they won’t harm Lange.

He embraces them.

“That’s the reason you come to LSU,” he said, “to play in front of this many people on this stage with this tradition on your back. You play for these fans, for this university. I’m really excited to be able to do that.”

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