OMAHA, Neb. — An impostor disguised as Alex Lange must’ve pitched the first inning Tuesday for LSU against Cal State-Fullerton.
That’s the only way to explain what happened. Because what took place was so far out of the norm it defies all reasoning.
Lange surrendered four hits and three runs before most had settled into their seats. He also walked a batter and five of the first seven he faced reached base against him. One of those outs came on a sacrifice squeeze that extended Fullerton’s lead to 3-0.
Those three runs matched the total of first-inning runs he’d allowed all season. He’d never given up more than one in a first inning, and only twice prior had he given up three or more in a single inning.
“I wasn't worried about Alex Lange at all,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “This kid is so mature and poised, and I think he knew he was making good pitches.”
Mainieri may not have had concern, but plenty of LSU fans did. Lange quickly did his part to quell those fears though.
Lange worked a perfect second inning, starting it off with his first strikeout of the game. He’d only allow two hits the rest of the way as he finished with the seventh complete game by an LSU player in the College World Series.
Lange retired 25 of the final 28 batters he faced and reached double-digit strikeouts for the third straight NCAA Tournament game.
“I took a step back and regrouped in the dugout and just really focused on executing my pitches,” Lange said.
Lange got stronger as the game went on, especially once his team spotted him a one-run lead in the third. Lange had eight of his 10 strikeouts after that. Fullerton had only three at-bats with a runner on-base after the first.
Lange struck out two of those three batters.
“Once you give Alex Lange a lead, he's tough,” Mainieri said. “I wouldn't want to hit against him.”
Lange threw his first career complete game two weeks ago in his first NCAA Tournament start. His second came on an even bigger stage.
Even though his pitch count surpassed the 100-pitch mark in the eighth inning, there was never any doubt that he’d stay in the game. He’d already proven he could do it.
“Just finish it at all costs,” Lange said. “When you're out there, you want to finish it and that was my mindset — I'm going to finish this game.”
Lange won’t take the mound again this season unless LSU makes the CWS finals. He’s expected to take Game 1 of that series if the Tigers do make it there.
Lange at least left his mark if this is the only time he pitches in the CWS.
“Being able to go out there and play in it is kind of a dream come true,” Lange said. “I'm really happy to experience that, but I'm more happy that we won and that we're moving on.”
Alex Lange rebounds from dreadful start
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