Whenever Alex Lange takes the mound, there tends to be a level of confidence with the LSU baseball team.
A comfort that the big right-hander will keep the Tigers in a game.
Even when there is an early rough patch, Lange usually steers through with minimal damage.
Usual trends don’t always hold true, though, and that was the case Friday night when the No. 3-ranked Tigers collided with No. 1 TCU on the first day of the Shriners Hospital for Children Classic at Minute Maid Park.
The Horned Frogs squandered a chance to get to Lange in the 1st inning but made amends nicely in the 2nd on the way to a 9-6 victory.
Lange didn’t make it out of the 2nd inning after serving up a three-run game-tying home run to TCU’s Austen Wade and a two-two run go-ahead blast to Luke Baker.
The Tigers (8-2) never recovered from Lange’s second wobble, scoring only a pair of unearned runs in the 9th inning after a promising start.
TCU starter Brian Howard weathered a strange 1st inning when he gave up four runs to log 4 more scoreless frames and freshman Charles King was spectacular over the last 4 innings to stymie LSU.
Cole Freeman produced three of the Tigers’ 10 hits – five in the 1st and five the rest of the game. Jake Slaughter and Greg Deichmann both drove in a pair of runs.
None of that was enough, though, because Lange was shaky almost from the beginning when he walked two-hole batter Elliott Barzilli and then permitted a solid single to Evan Skoug, who was 4-for-5 after entering the night 4-for-29 this season.
Baker fanned for the second out, but Josh Watson chopped an RBI double over Slaughter’s head at first base to give the Frogs a quick 1-0 lead. Lange got out of the inning with no more damage when left fielder Brennan Breaux made a nice running catch for the third out.
LSU’s offense did what a veteran crew does and picked up its starter in the bottom of the 1st inning with an infield single, two bloops, a bad hop two-run single from Slaughter and Jordan Romero’s loud double.
All of that generated four runs, which usually would be the kind of mental reset for Lange that doomed the opponent.
Not this time.
Instead, Lange never mastered a less-than-friendly pitcher’s strike zone. With one out in the 2nd, Lange walked eight-hole hitter Ryan Merrill and then Connor Wenhanen to create a jam.
After falling behind Wade, Lange tried to groove a fastball and Wade devoured it and sent a screaming liner into the right field bleachers to even the score. Skoug kept the inning alive with a two-out single and Baker hammered his two-run bomb to left field, ending Lange’s night – the shortest stint of his LSU career.
Austin Bain took over and effectively shut the Frogs (9-1) down for the most part. But a two-out walk, wild pitch and Cam Warner’s single produced an insurance run in the 5th.
TCU added another tack-on tally in the 6th vs. Russell Reynolds in similar fashion – with Skoug’s hit chasing in Barzilli after he moved up on a tw0-out wild pitch.
While the Horned Frogs kept chipping away, LSU frittered away a handful of mild opportunities to close the gap.
The Tigers pieced together four consecutive hits with runners in scoring position, but then came up empty-handed on their next five chances and six of their last seven.
Greg Deichmann’s hard-hit infield single in the 9th was the only exception and that was too little, too late because King didn’t waver.
King faced 17 batters in 4 innings and allowed only two hits and two other runners on walks. On the heels of Howard mowing down 14 of the 18 batters he faced after those four straight base hits in the 1st, LSU’s offensive night was a struggle.
The Tigers get back to work in the high-profile tournament at 3:30 p.m. Saturday when they take on Baylor (10-0), which eased past Ole Miss 4-0 on Friday.
Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic
LSU vs. TCU, Baylor & Texas Tech
Friday | TCU 9, LSU 6
LSU vs. Baylor | 3:30 p.m. Saturday
LSU vs. Texas Tech | 10 a.m. Sunday
WHERE: Minute Maid Park | Houston
RECORDS: LSU 8-2, Baylor 10-0, Texas Tech 9-2
RADIO: 100.7 (Baton Rouge) on Saturday; 98.1-FM (Baton Rouge) on Sunday
TV/LIVESTREAM: Fox Sports Southwest
ON THE WEB: TigerBlitz.com
TWITTER: @RandyRosetta, @BillyEmbody, @LSUBaseball
LSU topped Baylor 2-0 in this tournament two years ago and leads the series over the Bears 9-3.
First meeting with Texas Tech.
LSU – No. 2 Collegiate Baseball, No. 2 Perfect Game, No. 3 USA Today (coaches), No. 3 NCBWA (writers), No. 4 Baseball America, No. 4 D1Baseball.com
Baylor – No. 17 Collegiate Baseball,
Texas Tech – No. 10 D1Baseball.com, No. 11 NCBWA, No. 12 Collegiate Baseball, No. 19 Perfect Game, No. 21 Baseball America, No. 24 Perfect Game
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS
Saturday | LSU, Sr. LH Jared Poche (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 15 IP, 10 SO/2 BB, .021 OBA) vs. Baylor, Jr. RH Montana Parsons (1-0, 3.38 ERA, 10-2 IP, 9 SO/7 BB)
Sunday | LSU, Fr. Eric Walker (1-0, 4.00 ERA, 9 IP, 12 SO/3 BB, .257 OBA) vs. Texas Tech, So. RH Ryan Shetter (1-0, 2.13 ERA, 12.2 IP, 16 SO/2 BB)