The right-handed freshman settled in and became dominant afterwards, and Bama ace Wade LeBlanc struggled for the second week in a row, as LSU chipped away at a three-run Bama lead and pulled ahead in the eighth inning to take the series opener 7-6 In Baton Rouge, Louisiana Friday night.
"(Coleman) was on a short string in the sixth and seventh innings, then his curveball got harder," LSU Coach Smoke Laval said. "It wasn't like he was pitching poorly."
Alabama's hopes hinged on a throw from third to first base that would have preserved a tie going into the ninth, but the long throw from Matt Downs to Spencer Pennington was a few inches high, extending LSU's half of the eighth inning by a single at-bat, just long enough for the Tigers to plate the winning run.
Alabama (26-11 overall, 9-4 SEC) scored two runs apiece in the second, third and fourth innings to erase a 3-0 first-inning deficit.
Coleman retired the side in order in the fifth through eighth innings, and had two outs in the ninth before Kody Valverde coaxed a full-count walk, forcing Laval to the bullpen to replace Coleman. The freshman took a well-deserved standing ovation as he left the game one out shy of an improbable complete game.
"Coleman got stronger as the game went on," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "He threw the breaking ball to guys that don't hit the breaking ball well. We weren't able to match him with our pitching and he got better as the game went along."
LeBlanc struggled from the jump, walking the first LSU batter of the game on five pitches and hitting the next guy on an 0-2 count. Three RBI singles followed as LSU (25-11 overall, 5-8 SEC) sent seven men to the plate and jumped out to a 3-0 lead.
"He stands very tall. He's up in the zone," Wells said of LeBlanc. "His best pitch is his change-up and it's fluttering up there. It was very similar to last Friday night."
LeBlanc battled out of the second without allowing a run after walking the bases loaded with two outs. Then he settled in, throwing just 13 pitches in the third inning after tossing a combined 60 pitches in the first two innings. LeBlanc threw 110 pitches in six innings of work, allowing six runs, nine hits and issuing four walks.
Solo home runs by Bruce Sprowl and Jordan Mayer in the fourth and fifth inning tightened the game to 6-5.
Quinn Stewart and J.T. Wise had back-to-back hits in the bottom of the seventh to plate the tying run and chase LeBlanc from the game. Jordan Davis inherited a runner from LeBlanc in the and stranded him at second base retiring the three batters in a row.
Davis should have been out of the eighth inning with no damage after coaxing a two-out chopper to third base Quinn Stewart, LSU's leading home run hitter, but Downs' high throw brought up J.T. Wise, who singled home the go-ahead run. Sprowl was thrown out by a mile at the plate by Brandon Belcher when trying to add an insurance run.
Unlike last Friday night when Alabama got a ninth-inning solo home run to send the game to extra innings, Bama hitters were retired without a hit in the ninth.
Downs slugged his second home run of the year with a one-out solo shot to left field for Alabama's first run. It was the third home run of the season and second in the past two weeks. Downs was two for four with three RBIs in the game.
Alex Avila, the other Tide player with two hits in the game, ejected a two-out pitch from Alex Box Stadium with a 2-0 blast to right field to give Alabama a two-spot in the top of the fourth inning. The ball reached its apex just as it cleared the 365-foot sign in right field and landed across Nicholson Street, which bordered right field.
Bama faces LSU again Saturday with a 2 p.m. start at Alex Box Stadium.