A Fine Start

It wasn't easy in the Big Easy, but the Alabama baseball team's 7-5 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in the opening game of the New Orleans NCAA Regional Friday night has set up a showdown with Tulane, the top-ranked and top-seeded team in America.

The awakening of Evan Bush's bat provided the offensive difference Alabama Head Coach Jim Wells has been looking for. Bush homered twice breaking out of a month-long slump from the plate.

The Rainbow City native slammed a two-run home in a four-run first inning and added a solo blast in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Bush, who was dropped from fourth to fifth in the lineup for Friday's game, entered the game with just five hits in last 40 at-bats, including an 0-for-12 slump at the SEC Tournament.

Alabama was one of eight Southeatern Conference teams to win their opening round game on Friday. The SEC posted a perfect 8-0 mark on Friday, with Florida's opening game with Stetson postponed due to inclement weather.

Alabama clung precariously to the two-run lead in the game's final two innings, and a double play induced by Tide freshman reliever David Robertson, started by second-baseman Greg Paiml and turned by shortstop Cale Iorg sealed the win.

Alabama used three pitchers in the game - Wade LeBlanc (5-5) started and picked up the win while Jordan Davis pitched a big middle two innings in the sixth and seventh to set up Robertson for the save.

Davis worked two scoreless innings and allowed two hits and struck out two batters, and Robertson also pitched two scoreless innings, with one hit and one strikeout, for his eighth save of the season.

LeBlanc allowed worked out of several jams, and Crimson Tide pitching stranded seven ULL baserunners. ULL's John Coker led off the game with a triple, but he was the only run allowed to cross as LeBlanc fought back to strike after Coker was driven in with a single.

UL Lafayette (47-18) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning as Alabama has now trailed in 50 of its 60 games this season. John Coker led off the game with a triple to right center field and scored on Jonathan Lucroy's sharp base hit to center for the 1-0 lead.

Alabama (39-21) answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Senior first baseman Zac Welch, hitting in the four-hole, put the Crimson Tide on the board with a two-run single to right-center to give Bama a 2-1 lead.

Bush slammed a two-run home run over the wall in center field as Bama took a 4-1 lead.

The home run also chased UL starter Kevin Ardoin, who was charged with four runs and three hits in one-third of an inning.

Ardoin closes out the season with a four-game losing streak. In his last five starts, he has allowed 29 runs and 36 hits in 16 2/3 innings. He has a 13.50 ERA in those five starts.

The Crimson Tide added another run in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 5-2 lead when sophomore center fielder Emeel Salem reached on his 19th infield hit of the season and moved to second on a throwing error by third baseman Dallas Morris.

After a passed ball and walk to senior DH Allen Rice, senior left fielder Matt Grooms singled up the middle with two outs to give the Tide a three-run lead.

Alabama extended the lead to 6-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning on Welch's towering solo home run to right field.

UL scored three runs on three hits in the sixth inning to cut the UA lead to 6-5 and in the process chase LeBlanc from the game. Justin Morgan drove in the first run with a bases loaded single to make it a 6-3 game.

Bush gave Alabama a 7-5 lead with a solo home run over the scoreboard in left center field in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Alabama will take on Tulane Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. The No. 1 national seed Green Wave defeated Southern 17-7 earlier on Friday.

Brent Carter or T.J. Large are the likely candidates to start Saturday's game.

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