Inclement weather in Baton Rouge forced a delay in the start of the Alabama-LSU baseball series, but the wait was worth it. When Friday’s game was rained out, the Crimson Tide and Fighting Tigers had to play two games on Saturday to start the three-game series. Many of those in the home crowd in Alex Box Stadium may have been expecting a sweep, but not the one they got.
Alabama took on the ace pitchers of the LSU staff and came away with wins in both games Saturday to earn the series victory over No. 7 LSU. In the afternoon game, the Tide took a 6-0 shutout win; in the nightcap, Bama scratched out a 4-3 decision.
The series win was Alabama’s first in Baton Rouge since 1996.
Alabama will go for the series sweep at 1 p.m. CDT Sunday. The Crimson Tide will pitch junior right-hander Nick Eicholtz, while the Tigers will go with senior lefty John Valek III.
Alabama improved to 13-5 and has started Southeastern Conference play at 2-0, while LSU fell to 13-5 and is 0-2 after the start of SEC competition.
“Offensively, we’re showing a little spark right now and starting to look like the offense we thought we’d be,” said Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard. “With that, we’re getting some big two-out hits and critical hits at the right moment; that’s what you have to do to LSU. This is a tough place to win, so obviously when you can win two in one day here it’s awfully special. The series win means a lot and gets us off to a good start in SEC play.”
Alabama’s offense was led by junior Will Haynie, who was 4-for-8 with a double, a home run, three runs batted in, and two runs scored. Chandler Taylor was 3-9 with a double, a homer, two RBI, and a run scored.
The Crimson Tide starters -- Geoffrey Bramblett in the first game and Jake Walters in the nightcap -- each earned a win on Saturday, working a combined 11 2/3 innings and allowing only one earned run and two total walks.
In the opening game, Alabama’s offense had 12 hits and the pitching staff gave Bama its first shutout win in Baton Rouge since May 14, 2000.
Every Tide position starter had at least one hit.
Haynie was2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and a run scored. His two-RBI double was part of a four run, seven-hit seventh inning. Also contributing a pair of hits were Chandler Avant (2-5) and Taylor (2-5). Taylor delivered his team-high third home run of the season and also added two RBI and a run scored.
Bramblett (2-0) paired with senior Jon Keller to shut out the Tigers. Bramblett earned his second win of the year, allowing only four hits and one walk with a strikeout in six innings. Keller followed with three scoreless innings to earn his first save of the year.
LSU starter Alex Lange (2-1) suffered his first career loss in the outing, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing four earned runs on 10 hits and one walk. Lange had previously won 14 straight starts to begin his career (12 in 2015, two in 2016).
Saturday’s first contest began as a pitcher’s duel, with the two teams going scoreless through the first six full innings. The Crimson Tide offense broke the tie, exploding for four runs in the seventh inning, using seven hits.
Chance Vincent led off the inning with a double and Georgie Salem followed with a perfectly placed bunt to put runners on the corners for Haynie. The Tide catcher sent a 3-1 pitch off the wall in left-center field to score both runners and break the 0-0 tie.
A single moved Haynie to third, and then a two-out single from Avant scored one more. Taylor singled in the next at-bat to give Bama runners on the corners again. Cody Henry’s single scored the fourth and final run of the inning.
In the ninth, Alabama added the game’s final two runs. With one out and one on, Taylor homered into the bleachers in right field with Keith Holcombe on base to give the Tide a 6-0 lead.
Keller shut down the Tigers in the final three innings for the save, retiring the final seven batters he faced to close out the game.
Alabama also led the second game from start to finish, but it was more of a nail-biter with the Tigers scoring two runs in the ninth inning and having the tying run at second when the game ended with Bama’s 4-3 win.
The pitching effort was highlighted by Walters (2-2), who went 5 2/3 innings and allowed one earned run on seven hits and a walk with three strikeouts for his second win of the season. He was followed by the trio of Dylan Duarte, Sam Finnerty, and Matt Foster, with Foster closing out the ninth.
LSU’s Jared Poché took the loss.
“The pitching staff as a whole did a good job, and they made some key pitches at the right moment,” said Gaspard. “LSU got their hits, but they didn’t have much to show for it. Our freshmen came in, their nerves were really good and they threw strikes. That was the key; we pounded the zone and made key pitches in key moments to help us get these two wins.”
Alabama went ahead in the fourth inning with two runs on a hit and an error. Holcombe reached on an error and Avant was hit by a pitch to give the Tide two runners. One out later, Cody Henry was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Cobie Vance, who sent a single through the left side to score one. Vincent followed with a groundout to first but was able to score the run to give Alabama a 2-0 advantage.
Leading off the fifth, Haynie took a 1-0 pitch deep to left field for a solo homer that pushed the lead to 3-0 for.
LSU would get its first run of the day in the bottom of the sixth, using a double and a single to narrow the gap to 3-1.
The Tide added one more for insurance in the ninth, and it turned out to be the winning run. A one-out single from Georgie Salem was followed by a two-out single from Haynie to put runners on the corners. With two down, Holcombe slapped a single to right center to score Salem and put the Tide in front, 4-1.
The Tigers were able to rally for two in the ninth. LSU put a pair in scoring position with two down before a single and a wild pitch scored two and moved the game to 4-3. The Tigers had a runner on second and a 3-2 count before Foster was able to record a popup in foul territory to claim his first career save at Alabama.