Tide Baseball Falls In Heartbreaker

HOOVER – It's the nature of baseball that no team goes undefeated, but some losses hurt more than others. Alabama had one of those heart-breakers Friday in the semifinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, losing a two-out, ninth-inning lead and falling, 3-2, to the nation's second ranked team, LSU.

Now Alabama will wait to see if it is one of 64 teams selected to the 2013 NCAA Baseball Tournament. The field will be announced Monday. Most expect Bama to make the field with a 34-26 record and some quality wins, including regular season victories over the nation's top two teams, Vanderbilt and LSU. LSU will play for the SEC Tournament championship Saturday.

The loss spoiled an outstanding pitching performance from walk-on freshman Mike Oczypok, who almost made it a complete game. He held LSU to one run through 8 2/3 innings, a career-high, and was a strike away from victory. With two outs he gave up a single to Christian Ibarra and had a 3-2 count on the next batter, Tyler Moore. But Moore laced a double to the wall in right center at the Hoover Met, scoring pinch-runner Jared Foster with the tying run.

With normal closer Ray Castillo nursing a sore shoulder, the Tide went to Jay Shaw in relief and Shaw gave up a single to Ty Ross to give LSU a 3-2 lead. Bama was unable to rally in the bottom of the ninth, saddling Oczypok (4-2) with his second loss of the season.

"It's a really tough one on our end and Mike (Oczypok) was just tremendous today." Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "It was a well-played game and I give LSU credit there in the ninth inning. Mike did his job and put one in the strike zone and (Tyler) Moore and (Ty) Ross got big hits for them. I thought both teams played extremely well. Offensively we did a nice job, but hit a lot of balls hard at them. It was one of those games that didn't line up for us, but I was real pleased with the effort of our team throughout the game."

Over his 8 2/3 innings, Oczypok allowed three runs on 10 hits with a walk and five strikeouts. LSU got the leadoff man on in six of the nine innings, including a single by Mason Katz in the ninth. Katz was erased on the Tide's fourth double play of the game, but LSU was able to get the winning runs across.

With the four double plays in the game, Alabama has 76 for the season and passed Towson University for the most double plays turned in the nation this season. The game marked the third time this season the Tide turned four double plays. The school record for double plays in a season is 81, when the 1997 team played 70 games. (Bama has played 60 games thus far.)

Mikey White had another multi-hit game, going 2-for-4 with a triple, an RBI and a run scored. The multi-hit game was the 19th of the season for the freshman shortstop. White had two of the four hits in the game for the Tide, as Kenny Roberts and Brett Booth had one hit each. Booth had a single in the fifth to score White as Alabama took a 2-1 lead in the game.

Katz was 3-for-4 to lead the Tigers, while Sean McMullen, Mark Laird and Ross all had two hits each. Moore finished the day 1-for-3 with an RBI and he scored twice.

LSU starter Ryan Eades did not factor into the decision after throwing 7 innings, allowing two runs on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Reliever Nate Fury (2-1) threw a scoreless eighth inning to get the win and closer Chris Cotton retired all three batters he faced in the ninth to pick up save 14 of the year.

In both the first and second innings, LSU got leadoff singles but the Tide turned double plays in both innings. The Tigers got a leadoff walk in the third, and after a sacrifice bunt by Andrew Stevenson moved Tyler Moore into scoring position with two outs, Sean McMullen doubled to the left field gap to drive in Stevenson and give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

The Tide answered in the fifth inning scoring a pair of runs on two hits and a walk. After Ben Moore walked to lead off the inning, White followed with his first triple of the season to drive him in and tie the game at 1-1. Alabama took the lead when Brett Booth singled up the middle to drive in White for a 2-1 lead.

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