OMAHA, Neb. — The first pitch Jared Poche' threw Wednesday night made him LSU's new all-time leader in games started, and the 27th out of the game made him the program's leader in wins.
None of the left-hander's 39 victories could compare to the one he had in front of 22,872 fans at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Sure, he's had better stat lines than his eight-inning, four-run affair Wednesday — the senior even threw a no-hitter to begin the season. But the fearlessness, poise and command Poche' had from the get-go against Florida State has the Tigers playing in the Bracket 1 finals this weekend.
"He put the team on his shoulders and carried us to the promised land," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "There was a lot riding on this ballgame tonight, and Poche' was a cool customer and just went out there and pitched as well as I've ever seen him pitch."There was no questioning how locked in he was from the very beginning, striking out a pair to begin the game. That 10-pitch first inning allowed his offense to relax a little, and a giant five-run frame followed.
Effiency was the name of the game for the senior. In his eight-plus innings, he never threw more than 16 pitches. He walked just two guys against one of the best lineups in the country when it comes to getting on base, and he held the Seminoles to an 0-for-2 mark with runners in scoring position and forced three double plays.
"The biggest thing working was my fastball. It was probably the best it's been all season," Poche' said. "I was able to put pitches where I wanted pretty much all night."
Back-to-back home runs in the ninth soured his final stats a bit and ended his bid for his first complete game since 2015, but with a five-run cushion coming into the inning, there were nothing but roars of approval coming from the LSU faithful behind the first-base dugout as he exited the game.
"Jared was rough on us," Florida State coach Mike Martin Sr. said. "He pitched a beautiful ballgame, and he kept performing. And you tip your hat to him, he's a very good competitor."
There were 1,221 days between the first career start for Poche' — a six-inning, scoreless gem against Grambling that was a good sign of what was to come for the freshman — and his clutch, record-setting start in Omaha. Mainieri trusted him with the start for the 69th time Wednesday, a new LSU record.
"If you would have told me four years ago before I started my career at LSU that in four short years that you're going to be in Omaha and you're going to break the all-time wins record, there's no way I would have believed that," Poche' said.
His career numbers immediately jump off the page: A 39-12 record with a 3.07 ERA. And his consistency has been astounding, putting up nearly identical numbers over each of the four seasons.
The left arm of his certainly gets him places — such as a ninth-round selection by the Oakland Athletics last week in the MLB draft — but it's not everything. His fastball is far from overpowering, and his breaking stuff doesn't completely vanish in the box. But he mixes his pitches well, hits his spots, and goes out ready to compete each night with a warrior's mentality.
"He has more than just the ability to pitch," said four-year teammate Kramer Robertson. "He's got something else inside him that makes him special, and there's a reason he's won more games than anyone else to put on this jersey. It's been an honor to be his teammate, and I'm going to be forever thankful for that."
In order for his college career to extend to start No. 70, LSU will have to beat Oregon State two nights in a row, an extremely tough assignment against a team that has won 23 straight games and embarrassed these same Tigers 13-1 Monday night. First pitch is slated for 3 p.m. ET.