By LUKE JOHNSON
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Freshman left-hander Jared Poche cruised through five scoreless innings in LSU’s 6-0 win against Grambling Sunday, but it was his troublesome sixth that might show how great his potential may be.
Grambling wasn’t able to muster as much as a well-struck ball until No. 8 hitter Roger Diaz came to the plate to lead off the sixth. He turned on a pitch that came up and in for a leadoff double down the left field line.
"I left a pitch up,” Poche said.
The next batter, left-fielder Dion Holbrook, stroked a single to center field to give Grambling runners at the corners. All of a sudden a promising start was unraveling, and LSU coach Paul Mainieri was upset with his decision making.
"When the guy led off the sixth inning with a double I was kind of kicking myself, because I wanted to hook him after five,” Mainieri said. "I wanted to build up his pitch count, but I also wanted him to end on a positive note.”
Turned out, staying in might’ve been the best thing for him.
LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn came out to the mound to talk to his precocious pitcher. The conversation was one-sided.
"Coach (Dunn) came to the mound and said, ‘Look, find a way to get out of this, let’s see what you’re made of,’” Poche said. "I was fortunate enough to get out of it.”
He got a little help from fellow freshman Kramer Robertson, who in his first career start made a number of fancy plays with his glove.
Leadoff man Edwin Drexler hit a soft liner that looked destined for the outfield grass, but Robertson ran under it and snagged it with his glove. From there, Poche beautifully painted the outside corner with a changeup to strike out right fielder Kris Minter for the second out, and induced a harmless ground ball to Robertson to end the inning.
A little adversity after such a strong start, but perhaps advantageous in the long run.
"There’s something about that kid. Not only does he have talent, but he’s got that something extra, that lagniappe that it takes to be a great one,” Mainieri said. "Today we got a glimpse of what he’s capable of being.”
Poche wasn’t the only newcomer to make a splash LSU’s win. In fact, his might pale in comparison to the one created by Robertson’s cannonball into the LSU waters.
What the box score will show is an efficient game for LSU’s freshman infielder: three runs scored with just one official at bat, a stolen base and a clean night in the field with five putouts and four assists – but those numbers will never quantify the flair with which he accumulated them through.
The stolen base? Robertson stole home when Andrew Stevenson got caught in a run-down in the bottom of the 2nd inning, scoring LSU’s first run of the game.
How about those defensive numbers? Is there a spot in the box score to measure how much ground one covered on a play? If there is, tack about 65 yards on Robertson’s catch in the top of the third that will forever go down in scorebooks as an F4 (or maybe an F4!).
Robertson zipped like a streak of lightning to a spot near the home bullpen when Holbrook hit a lazy fly ball into foul territory with one out in the third inning.
He slid between first baseman Chris Chinea and right fielder Jared Foster to make a phenomenal catch at the base of the wall by the right field bleachers.
"That catch on the warning track in the bullpen up against the wall is as fine a catch as you’ll ever see at any level,” Mainieri said. "I think he played phenomenal, his defense really impacted the game.”