Warming up in the bullpen for the first Saturday start of his college career, Jared Poché’s confidence level was low.
“I thought it was going to be my worst outing,” he said.
It was his best.
Poché won an old-fashioned pitching duel against another hotshot freshman, allowing just three hits in a sparkling 82⁄3 innings and leading LSU to a 2-1 win over Georgia on Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium.
The Tigers (20-4, 3-2 SEC) clinched the series win, and Poché got his first clutch victory on the mound, barely out-dueling his counterpart, Georgia’s Robert Tyler, in a slugfest between a pair of rookies.
Poché struck out six, walked two and had a no-hitter through 51/3 innings.
He got every out except the final one in an outing that likely secured his place as LSU’s No. 2 starter. He was elevated from his Sunday position this weekend.
“We needed to have somebody win a game for us other than Aaron Nola,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “I’ll sleep well tonight knowing that Jared Poché’s on our team.”
LSU will start senior Kurt McCune (0-0, 4.50) on Sunday. He has been strictly a reliever this season. Starter Kyle Bouman sprained his ankle at practice Monday and has been ruled out.
McCune has 24 starts in his career and began at LSU as a weekend starter in 2011.
Tyler, whose fastball rarely fell below 95 mph, allowed five hits through nearly eight innings Saturday. He struck out four and walked two, stymying LSU’s bats.
One of his runs was unearned.
It proved to be a big one.
In the fifth, Kramer Robertson reached on an error and then advanced to second on the errant throw from the third baseman. Mark Laird’s single scored him for a 2-0 lead.
LSU took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Georgia (14-10, 1-4 SEC) failed to turn a double play. Sean McMullen led off LSU’s at-bat with a triple and scored on a fielder’s choice by Kade Scivicque. Scivicque’s grounder to shortstop was flipped to second. The second baseman bobbled the ball before throwing to first late.
“In these type ball games, in this modern era of college baseball, the game comes down to one or two little things like that,” Mainieri said. “We got a couple of breaks.”
Poché nearly matched the performance of ace Aaron Nola in Friday’s 4-0 series-opening win, and fans booed as Mainieri yanked him with one out left in the game.
Mainieri inserted Joe Broussard, who struck out the final batter on three pitches for his fifth save of the season.
In his 102-pitch outing, Poché didn’t allow his first batter to reach base until he opened the fourth by walking Georgia’s lead-off man Stephen Wrenn.
The threat didn’t last long.
The Tigers turned a double play, and then catcher Tyler Moore made a leaping grab on a pop-up in foul territory to end it.
Poché got some help from his outfield, too.
Andrew Stevenson made a diving grab in left-center in the second inning, and McMullen, in left field, had a running grab in the sixth.
Poché did the rest himself.
“The command of my fastball was huge tonight,” said Poché, who led Lutcher to a state title last year.
“He threw his fastball with extra incentive,” Mainieri said. “He made big pitches when he needed to.”
And what about that bullpen before the game?
Those low feelings wore off quickly. Poché retired the first nine batters of the game before a walk opened the fourth.
He allowed his first hit in the sixth. Shortstop Alex Bregman couldn’t handle a short chopper, and it was ruled a hit — a debatable one. Georgia got its only run in the frame to make it 2-1.
Poché’s counterpart was equally as good.
Tyler, a 6-foot-4 hard-throwing righty, started the game offering fastballs in the mid to high 90s. He struck 97 multiple times. His speed never really dropped.
Poché didn’t need the speed.
“He doesn’t have the over-powering stuff like their kid did,” Mainieri said. “Their kid was throwing 10 miles an hour than Poché, but he out-pitched him every so slightly, but he out-pitched him.”