LSU's freshman left-handed pitcher Jared Poche. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, April 07, 2014 12:04 PMBATON ROUGE — As long as Aaron Nola is around, there’s only room for one ace on LSU’s pitching staff.
But Jared Poché must feel like one by default.
With more and more Southeastern Conference teams moving their top pitcher back a day — perhaps to avoid a Nola matchup — LSU’s freshman left-hander is routinely getting the tougher weekend draw.
But Saturday Poché responded with six strong innings as the Tigers beat Mississippi State 2-1 to clinch a comeback series after being swept at Florida last week.
“That was a big one for us tonight, I’m not going to lie to you,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I wanted that one really, really bad.”
LSU (23-8-1, 5-5-1 SEC) has never lost a series to Mississippi State (20-12, 6-5) in Mainieri’s eight years.
“I did know that,” Mainieri said.
But that wasn’t what he wanted to talk about.
“To me the story of the game was Jared Poché meeting the challenge of being matched up against their No. 1 guy,” he said.
State junior Ross Mitchell (5-2), who came in with a 1.55 ERA and went 14-0 last season, was the hard-luck loser.
“What a great formula,” Mainieri said of Mitchell. “The kid throws a lot of strikes low in the zone with movement (for a lot of ground balls) and the infield never makes an error.
“I just told Jared all he has to do is hold them to no runs and we can’t lose.”
Poché was basically up to it, giving up only an unearned run on three hits while striking out six. He might have lasted longer but needed 108 pitches to hold down the Bulldogs until LSU strung together enough offense in the sixth on Kade Scivicque’s RBI single and a sacrifice fly by Chris Chinea.
With Kyle Bouman still questionable with a sprained ankle, Mainieri said he isn’t sure who will pitch when the Tigers go for the sweep at 1 p.m. today.
“It was huge,” Poché said of getting the series win. “We didn’t doubt ourselves. But four losses in a row coming into this week, we had to prove it.”
Poché finished his night in the sixth trailing 1-0.
But both LSU runs came in the bottom of the inning after Mark Laird got a one-out single.
Alex Bregman reached on an error by Mitchell, and Scivicque followed with an RBI single to tie the score.
Bregman took third on the play and scored on Chinea’s sacrifice fly to the left-field wall.
“I thought it was actually out of the ballpark and thought we’d have some breathing room,” Mainieri said of Chinea’s blast. “It didn’t work out that way.”
But three LSU pitchers kept the Bulldogs scoreless over the final three innings, including a two-inning save by Joe Broussard, who got two strikeouts in the ninth.