OMAHA—When Louisiana State senior Kramer Robertson met Jared Poche’ four years ago, he couldn’t understand a word of the Lutcher, La., native’s thick Cajun accent.
That’s his very first memory. There was no hint—no way of knowing—the kind of ride the teammates would share together in purple and gold. Robertson had no idea the impact Poche’ would have on the Tigers, and on himself.
Then Robertson saw Poche’ step on a pitcher’s mound, and suddenly, he understood.
Robertson felt the same feeling head coach Paul Mainieri did when he recruited Poche’ and watched the lefthander throw a shutout in his high school’s state championship. This guy was different. It had nothing to do with the numbers on the radar gun or the way his curveball broke. It was something entirely unquantifiable.
“He has more than just ability to pitch,” Robertson said. “He’s got something else inside him that makes him special.”
From that moment forward, Robertson and Poche’ carved out a unique friendship, a tight bond. Robertson learned of Poche’s insatiable competitiveness and his sheer unselfishness. He discovered quickly that Jared Poche’ is exactly that kind of teammate every player hopes to have. He’s a winner.
Now, the rest of the country can see that, too.
On Wednesday night, Poche’ put together an unmistakably Poche’-like performance in stifling the power bats of Florida State. The senior southpaw threw eight stingy innings as the Tigers won, 7-4, to advance to the bracket final against Oregon State and send the Seminoles home.
In the process, Poche’ won his 39th career game, passing Scott Schultz for the most victories in an LSU uniform all-time.
The winner became the winningest.
“There’s nobody more deserving, there’s nobody who has been as unselfish, more of a team guy than Jared Poche’,” said Robertson, the team’s starting shortstop. “There’s a reason that he’s won more games than anybody 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.”
Wednesday’s outing was a prototypical one for the four-year starter. His fastball sat in the mid-80s, touching a tick or two higher at times, and he used a sharp 12-to-6 mid-70s curveball as his main out pitch. The Athletics’ ninth-round pick, Poche’ doesn’t get by as much on stuff as he does location and grit. Mainieri pointed to an at-bat early in the game when Poche’ fell behind 3-1 to a leadoff hitter and battled back to coax a popup. He doesn’t give in.
Poche’ allowed four runs (three earned) in his eight frames, pitching around seven hits and striking out four to two walks. He came out to the mound in the ninth with 98 pitches to his name, but he allowed back-to-back home runs to FSU’s Quincy Nieporte and Cal Raleigh, setting up a save situation for electric freshman righthander Zack Hess.
No matter. Poche’ did just enough to win, as he’s done all throughout his LSU career. Universally known by his teammates for his humility, Poche’ was quick to credit them for their contributions after the game.
“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, you know, there’s no way I would have believed that,” he said. “This record is obviously—it’s definitely not an individual award. Having guys like Kramer and (former shortstop) Alex Bregman and all those guys behind me over the course of my career making play after play, picking me up on defense and scoring runs from games I throw, I couldn’t have done it without those guys.
“And I see this as more of a team award, and I guess I’ll just get the credit for it.”
The fact that Poche’ was on the mound at all this year is a credit to his team-first mentality. Drafted in the 14th round by the Padres last June, Poche’ opted to return, citing the desire to win a national championship with his teammates as one of the key factors.
Of course, too, he was aware of his proximity to the LSU wins record. He entered the season just 11 wins away from tying it. On Wednesday night, he improved to 12-3.
The performance, which came on the heels of a 2.2 inning scoreless relief appearance against the same Seminoles on Saturday, bookends what has been an exemplary season for Poche’—surely one that will forever rank highly in LSU lore. Poche’ opened the year with 15 straight no-hit innings, throwing a seven-inning no-hitter against Army and nearly repeating the feat in his next start against Maryland. He threw 29 innings before even allowing a run.
The Tigers have churned out a number of big leaguers on the mound throughout the storied program’s existence, from hard-throwing righthander Ben McDonald—part of ESPN’s broadcasting team Wednesday—to recent examples like Kevin Gausman and Aaron Nola.
Poche’, given his profile, is difficult to place among LSU’s greats.
“In the time that I’ve been here, I don’t know who to compare him to,” said Mainieri, in his 11th season at LSU. “He reminds me of someone like Jamie Moyer from the big leagues. Not overpowering but just knows how to pitch, change speeds, makes big pitches when he needs to.”
Poche’, who grew up an LSU fan and dreamed of one day hitting in the No. 3 hole for the Tigers, said he learned most from Nola, who took him under his wing in 2014 and taught him how to compete. Certainly, Poche’ has carried that competitive mantle throughout his Tigers tenure.
“The guy’s just a consummate winner,” Mainieri said. “He’s just a winner. If there’s a record that he should have, it should be for most games won. Because he’s a winner.”
Poche’ had the box score from his 39th win in his hand as he entered Wednesday night’s press conference and still held it as he left toward the team bus. The magnitude of what he had just achieved hadn’t fully set in until ESPN sideline reporter Laura Rutledge pulled him aside for a TV interview on the field and LSU’s sports information director handed him the printed out box.
Even still, being the selfless, quiet competitor that he is, Poche’ wasn’t planning on holding onto that sheet of paper much longer.
“I’ll hand it off to my dad,” he said, smiling, adding that he tossed the game ball to his mom in the stands.
It is, after all, a team award.