A Large Pitching Performance

Alabama's number one pitcher is on the shelf with an injury, but it would've been hard to convince LSU hitters of the fact as T.J. Large stepped into the Friday night slot, pitching a complete game four-hit shutout in the Tide's 4-0 win against fourth-ranked LSU at "The Joe" in Tuscaloosa.

The complete game was the first for Large and the first by an Alabama pitcher this season, though he pitched all but one out against Vanderbilt a week ago in a 1-0 Bama loss.

"He got better command of the fastball after about the third inning," Tide Head Coach Jim Wells said. "The Key was for him to be able to throw enough fastballs in the strike zone to at least make them aware of it and he really hasn't done that before tonight."

He walked four and struck out five en route to the Crimson Tide's third shutout of the season.

"It was very exciting", said Large, "(Volunteer coach) B.J. Green challenged me last week after losing to Vanderbilt and I came out and gave it all I had tonight. I got really fired up tonight, especially after the first home run. I told myself I had to come out on the mound and not lose the game by letting LSU score runs."

Homeruns by Gabe Scott and Cody Valverde were the key to the Tide's offense, which had previously scored just one earned run ever in 18 innings against LSU starter Lane Mestepey.

Mestepey (5-3) took the loss after allowing four runs and five hits in seven innings.

Scott's two-run blast in the bottom of the sixth inning to centerfield off Mestepey gave Large a four-run cushion for the final two innings.

Scott drove the one-out pitch high to center field and a strong wind carried the ball just beyond the 400-foot centerfield wall.

"(Mestepey) doesn't usually fall behind in the count and he fell behind, 2-0. It was a good hitters count and he came with a pitch I was able to drive," Scott said. "I hit it well but it was to the deep part of the park. I rounded first and then I knew it was gone. I was pretty excited."

Scott finished the game 2 for 3 with 2 RBI, and extended his team leading hitting streak to 16 games.

Valverde hit a solo shot to left field in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Tide a 2-0 leadi.

"Homeruns do win. We just don't do that too often," Wells said. "When you're limited with the number of hits that's about the only way you're going to score."

Alabama scored its first run of the game without getting a hit in the first inning when leadoff man Cale Iorg tagged from third on a fly ball.

Iorg reached on an error to open the inning and advanced two bases to third on an Allen Rice sacrifice bunt.

Alabama improved to 21-8 overall on the season and 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference. LSU dropped to 20-5, 4-3 in league play.

Alabama is now in familiar territory. The Tide has won the opening game of the series with LSU for the past two seasons, but hasn't been able to take a series from the Tigers since 1999.

Alabama's best chance to take the series would seem to be on Saturday with Brent Carter taking the mound. With starter Wade LeBlanc still out with a shoulder injury, the Crimson Tide's Sunday starter is to be determined after the second game of the series.

"With Wade continuing to be out it's who's left (to pitch on Sunday)," Wells said. "When he gets back we might be able to list a full rotation for Friday-Saturday-Sunday.

GAME NOTES:

*The 4-0 win was also Alabama's first shutout against LSU in Tuscaloosa since a 17-0 win in 1983.

*Alabama junior RHP T.J. Large (8 GS, 5-2, 1.31 ERA) fired a four-hit shutout in the win over No. 4 LSU. Large, who allowed at least one LSU base runner in five of the nine innings, escaped jams in the first, second and fifth innings to record the first complete game of the season by Alabama. At one point in the game, Large retired 10 straight LSU batters.

*The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth inning but failed to scored when Clay Harris grounded out to end the inning.

*Large, who allowed three singles and one double in the win, ended three lengthy LSU hitting streaks on Friday night. LSU senior left fielder Ryan Patterson (.431, 12 HR, 28 RBI) and senior second baseman Clay Harris (.402, 4 HR, 26 RBI) both had 15-game hitting streaks snapped in the opener.

*Large also snapped senior right fielder Nick Staninoha's (.333, 6 HR, 24 RBI) nine-game hitting streak. The LSU trio was a combined 0-for-9 in the loss to Alabama.

*Senior left fielder Gabe Scott, a native of Lake Charles, La., extended his hitting streak to 16 consecutive games with a fourth-inning single. He added a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to give Alabama a 4-0 lead. Scott (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI) has two career home runs against LSU, including his first career home run during the 2003 season. Of his six career home runs, four have come in the month of April.

*During the 16-game hitting streak, Scott is batting .440 (22-for-50) with one home run and seven RBI. He has raised his season batting average 193 points during the 16-game hitting streak. For the season, Scott is batting .393 (24-for-60) with one home run and seven RBI in 2 games.

*Junior catcher Kody Valverde, a native of Baton Rouge, hit his second home run of the season with a solo home run to lead off the fifth inning. Valverde entered the game just 1-for-11 in his career against LSU during his two seasons at UNO.


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