BATON ROUGE, La. — For the second week in a row, Alex Lange was the LSU baseball team’s hard-luck loser.
The junior was stellar again Thursday night, striking out 12 in eight innings of work. But for the second time in two Lange starts, LSU’s offense couldn’t put a run on the board behind him, as the Tigers were shut out in a 4-0 loss to Texas A&M.
The Tigers have now lost four out of their last five games, including a 1-0 loss when Lange last took the hill and threw a complete game versus Florida.
“Hitting is contagious, but unfortunately so is non-hitting,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said. “Guys start pressing and that doesn’t do us any good. Like I told them after the game: You can’t feel sorry for yourselves. You’ve just got to come back tomorrow and be competitors in the box and believe in yourself and it’ll happen. But it’s not going to happen if you lose your confidence and start thinking you can’t get it done.”
Texas A&M starting pitcher Brigham Hill was in a groove all night, limiting LSU’s lineup to three hits, neither of whom even made it to second base. Hill didn’t register his first walk until the seventh inning and struck out seven batters. Hill was replaced in the ninth inning by Mitchell Kilkenny.
In three SEC losses this season, LSU has scored a grand total of one run. Of course, Hill (2.60 ERA) and Florida pitchers Alex Faedo (2.39 ERA) and Brady Singer (1.58 ERA) are all formidable opponents. But outside of SEC play, no team had held LSU to fewer than three runs, let alone shut the Tigers out. In the three conference losses, LSU’s batters have gone 17-for-94 (.181) at the plate.
What’s more startling for LSU’s offense is where the production is missing from. Opponents are pitching around right fielder Greg Deichmann, who hasn’t driven in a run in five games. And the men in front of him in the order – Cole Freeman, Antoine Duplantis and Kramer Robertson – aren’t doing anything to help. The trio is a combined 3-for-26 with two walks in LSU’s last two games.
“I think people are trying to ‘that guy’ right now,” Freeman said. “That’s the type of team we are. Everybody wants to step up instead of letting the game come to you. Everybody’s trying to make that extra play, get that extra hit or do a little something extra. But that’s when the game starts getting away from you. Obviously, that’s kind of what the game is doing to us right now.”
Texas A&M’s two runs off Lange came on one swing, a short two-run home run that narrowly plunked over the right field wall in the fifth inning. Relief pitcher Matthew Beck came in and allowed the first two runs of his college career in the ninth inning, only one of which was earned.
Despite throwing a season-high 118 pitches, Lange was incredibly accurate with his pitches Thursday night. 81 of his 118 pitches landed for strikes, as he only walked one batter versus his 12 strikeouts.
That said, Lange allowed nine hits, partially as a result of how around the zone he was. But his strikeout pitch, especially his curveball, bailed him out of multiple occasions. Lange stranded three runners with his strikeouts, as he ended three frames with Ks, including the seventh when he struck out the side.
“I go out there and I try to throw the ball across the plate. I can’t affect the offense. If I could, I’d be hitting. But I can’t hit. That’s their stuff. I feel for those guys because I know how bad they want it to happen and how hard they work. It’s not like they’re not working or not trying or competing. These guys are working their butts off every day.”
In his last two starts, Lange has allowed three runs in 16 innings of work, striking out 19 batters with two walks.
In lighter news…
Relegated to the nine hole in the lineup after an 0-for-4 performance in Tuesday’s loss to Tulane, Zach Watson seemed angry. So angry, in fact, that he managed to snap his bat in half.
His aluminum bat.
Someone's been in the weight room. pic.twitter.com/dvbc1XCwRm
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 31, 2017
Watson was one of three LSU batters to record a hit Thursday night, a single with two outs in the third inning. He was forced out at second base when Freeman grounded into a 6-4 fielder’s choice to end the frame.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
The Tigers host Texas A&M again Friday night. Senior Jared Poché is looking for his first bounceback start of the year after losing to Florida last weekend. The game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPNU.