Bama Eliminates LSU

Tommy Hunter and Jake McCarter combined to keep LSU in check, and the woeful middle of the Alabama batting order had an awakening of sorts Friday night, helping Alabama to an 8-3 win in its second elimination game in two nights at the Southeastern Conference Tournament with 11,923 – mostly Alabama fans - in attendance at the Hoover Met.

Box Score

Alabama improved to 41-18 with the win and LSU dropped to 35-24 and was eliminated.

Hunter pitched well for six innings, but he allowed two runs in the seventh and only retired one LSU hitter in the five he faced in the inning. He was tired.

"It was kind of hot out here but I can't use that as an excuse," Hunter said. "My arm wasn't bothering me, but I just couldn't make pitches.

"Luckily, Jake came in and did a good job."

Nursing a three run lead with the tying run at the plate, McCarter faced down the heart of LSU's lineup, three-hole hitter Matt Liuzza and the SEC's best power hitter Quinn Stewart. Liuzza flied out to center field and Stewart went chasing a change-up in the dirt for strike three to end the inning, and the two runners inherited by McCarter were left stranded.

"Jake came into a difficult situation and did what he needed to do," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "We got what we needed from the pitching tonight."

After sweating out seven humid innings with temperatures in the mid-80s, Hunter, the 255-pound freshman, had enough energy to hop the dugout railing and give McCarter an enthusiastic greeting for preserving the 6-3 Crimson Tide lead.

"He did an unbelievable job," Hunter said. "You see those guys come up and its ‘uh-oh.'"

Hunter improved to 10-3, and with the win he and Wade LeBlanc (10-0) became the fourth duo in UA history to win 10 games in the same season.

Alabama's middle-order guys, who hadn't made an opposing pitcher say "uh-oh" in quite some time, took advantage of a depth-poor LSU pitching staff and broke out of a collective 1 for 26 slump in the tournament.

Evan Bush's two-run single in the first inning snapped an 0 for 20 futility streak for his Southeastern Conference Tournament career, and Kody Valverde homered and double in the game. His seventh-inning bomb gave Bama a 6-3 lead and it was his first career hit in 15 at-bats in the tournament.

Bush was 2 for 5 and Valverde was 2 for 4 in the game. Matt Downs and Alex Avila, batting second and third in the order, still struggled. They were a combined 0 for 6 with four walks.

"I was thinking to myself this year I haven't really given this team as much as I can give them," Bush said. "I really want to turn that around."

Chris Cahill started for LSU and pitched recorded only two outs in the seven batters faced. Chase Dardar pitched a career high six and a third innings allowing four hits and three runs. The LSU pitchers were also anchored by five errors in the game, and half the Bama runs were unearned.

Kent Matthes, who started his second game in a row in right field, had an RBI single in the first inning and scored a run in the fourth. He also had a running catch in the eighth inning to save a run.

Now, Wells faces a decision on who to put on the mound for Saturday's 1:30 p.m. start against Ole Miss. Wells said it will be either junior transfer Patrick Kelly or freshman Miers Quigley will go for Alabama. Quigley hasn't pitched since throwing two innings against Lipscomb on March 29, while Kelly pitched an inning on Friday night against Tennessee in the final regular season series.

The Rebels look likely to start Lance Lynn, who pitched the Sunday game in Tuscaloosa allowing a run and five hits in five and a third innings and walking four. He's the former summer-league Indiana Bulls teammate of Tommy Hunter.

If Alabama were to win against Ole Miss in the first game, the second would begin either immediately after the completion of its first game, or it would start at (approximately) 8:30, depending on the outcome of the Vanderbilt-Georgia game (hope Vanderbilt wins).

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