Bama Drops Series Opener

Alabama's Friday night starter T.J. Large has pulled off some Houdini-like escapes in the early stages of several games to come back and win this season, but Friday night in Starkville Large's tank was empty and his luck ran out in a 7-3 loss to the Bulldogs at Dudy Noble Field.

Alabama scored two runs in the first inning to jump out to a rare early lead, but it evaporated quickly as Large struggled in his shortest outing of the year.

Large recorded just four outs, giving up four hits, two walks and five earned runs in an inning and a third of work. He also hit two batters and threw two wild pitches. He threw just 50 pitches.

"He's a little worn out to tell the truth," Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells said. "When the starting pitching breaks down you're behind the eight-ball."

Alabama (33-15, 13-9 SEC) fell into a tie for the SEC Western Division lead as LSU beat Kentucky Friday night to improve to 13-9 in league play.

Entering the game Large had been the ultimate workhorse, eclipsing the 100-pitch mark in his last 11 starts, and averaging over 120 pitches per game in his seven Friday night SEC starts.

"We'll probably have to move (Wade) LeBlanc to Friday night," Wells said. "Large is not in a position to throw 127 pitches."

Still, Alabama had a chance to build an early cushion. Gabe Scott homered with a man on base with one out in the opening frame to put Alabama up 2-0.

Mississippi State starter Alan Johnson then walked two Tide hitters, but they were left stranded in the first inning.

"I thought we had them on the ropes. I was sitting there with the knowledge that we were going to need to get it done (by scoring a lot of runs)."

After scoring five runs in the first inning and a third off Large, the Bulldogs managed just two more runs in the game by virture off a Thomas Berkery two-run shot in the 6th inning.

Alabama's only other run came from a first-and-third double steal play in the fourth inning.

Johnson pitched seven innings, gave up five hits and three earned runs in the winninig effort. Sidewinding right hander Saunders Ramsey gave up just one hit in two innings in relief.

Ole Miss remained a game out of first after dropping a one-run contest to Auburn Friday evening.

Both LSU and Alabama are now a game behind Florida, who lost to Arkansas Friday night.

Alabama will start LeBlanc for Saturday's 6:30 p.m. game and will likely see the return of Brandon Belcher to the mound on Sunday at 1:30. Belcher has been out with an oblique muscle strain.

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