Tide Baseball Loses Lead, Series To LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. – Alabama watched a three-run lead evaporate in the final four innings and suffered a 9-7 loss to LSU in the final game of the three-game Southeastern Conference series at Alex Box Stadium Sunday afternoon.

Alabama led 7-4 in the sixth inning after sophomore third baseman Jake Smith drilled a two-run home run into the left field bleachers. The lead was short-lived, however, as UA starter Robert Phares allowed three straight base runners in the bottom of the sixth inning and LSU eventually tied the game.

The Tigers pushed the winning run across in the bottom of the seventh inning off losing pitcher Casey Kebodeaux to take an 8-7 lead.

"That was not real good," Alabama Coach Jim Wells said. "We give teams two to three runs per game (on passed balls, wild pitches or errors). We needed Phares to go deeper into the game and we certainly needed him to get out of the sixth inning. That was one game where we needed to outscore them. It was very disappointing."

In the seventh inning, LSU scored three times to tie the game at 7-7. Micah Gibbs led off the inning with a two-strike single to right and moved to second base when Chris McGhee drew a four-pitch walk. Johnny Dishon then laced a double into right center field to score Gibbs and knock Phares out of the game.

Kebodeaux replaced Phares and struck out Derek Helenihi for the first out and then got Blake Dean to ground out for the second out, as McGhee scored on the play to make it 7-6. After a walk to Clark, Kebodeaux bounced a breaking ball in front of the plate that went to the screen as Dishon scored the tying run from third base.

"It's hard to win when you don't make pitches and balls get past your catcher," Wells added. "LSU is going to score runs. Let's just eliminate the things we do to help them."

LSU (20-11, 5-7 SEC) pushed the winning run across in the seventh inning as DJ LaMahieu led off the inning with single and scored on Gibbs' double to center field.

Kebodeaux (2-4) allowed two runs and three hits in two innings to take the loss for Alabama.

Paul Bertuccini (1-0), who used a steady diet of curve balls, shut out the Tide over the final 2 2/3 innings for his first win of the season. He allowed one hit, struck out one and walked one for the win.

Helenihi hit his first home run of the season to lead off the eighth inning as LSU stretched its lead to 9-7.

The bottom three hitters in the LSU batting did most of the damage against Alabama. The trio of Gibbs, McGhee and Dishon went 6-for-10 with three RBI, four doubles and six runs scored. Helenihi had three hits and two RBI from the leadoff spot.

Alabama (17-15, 5-7 SEC) had taken a 7-4 lead with three runs off Jordan Nicholson in the sixth inning. Smith delivered the big blow in the inning with a two-run home run that cleared in the bleachers in left field. Freshman second baseman Ross Wilson started the rally with a one-out double down the left line and scored when junior DH Ryan Rhoden slammed a single off the wall in left to give the Tide a 5-4 lead. Smith followed with his second home run of the season to make it a 7-4 game.

After LSU tied the game in the bottom of the inning, Alabama loaded the bases in the seventh against Bertuccini, but Smith flied out to center to end the inning as Leon Landy made a running one-handed grab as he slammed into the wall as UA left the bases loaded.

There were three lead changes and three ties in the first six innings of another back-and-forth game between the Tide and Tigers.

Sophomore left fielder Brandon May was the Tide's hitting star on Sunday, going 4-for-5 with a home run and two RBI. May was hitless in his last 18 at-bats against Ole Miss and LSU during his last five games. His second inning home run gave Alabama an early 1-0 lead.

"May had a really nice day at the plate," Wells said. "The middle of the order has not been hitting, so that was good to see from May today."

LSU answered right back with three runs in the bottom of the second inning as the Tigers batted around by putting five straight men on base with two outs. Leon Landry started the inning with an infield hit and moved to third on stolen base and wild pitch by Phares. Gibbs' warning track fly ball easily scored Landry from third with the tying run.

McGhee and Dishon followed with back-to-back doubles as LSU grabbed a 2-1 lead. Helenihi singled up the middle to score Dishon with a 3-1 lead. Blake Dean followed with sharp single to left and Matt Clark walked to load the bases, before Phares regained his composure to strike out Ryan Schimpf as the Tigers left the bases loaded.

Alabama scored two runs on three hits in the top of the third inning to tie the game at 3-3. Smith was hit by a pitch and freshman Josh Rutledge followed with a single to center to extend his SEC hitting streak to nine games. Junior center fielder Alex Kubal followed with a sharp single to center to score Smith and May added an RBI single to left field to score Rutledge with the tying run.

LSU starter Blake Martin, who pitched three innings and struck out three batters in Friday's suspended game, started on Sunday and worked 3 1/3 innings before leaving the game in the fourth. He allowed three hits and four runs, with five strikeouts and no walks.

The Tigers regained the lead 4-3 with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. McGhee led off the inning with a single to shallow right field that Wilson lost in the sun. McGhee then stole second base and moved to third when catcher Alex Avila's throw sailed into the center field. Helenihi bounced a single through the left side of the infield that sent McGhee home with the go-ahead run.

Alabama pushed the tying run across in the top of the fifth inning on Avila's RBI double into the right field corner, but missed a chance to take the lead when junior right fielder Kent Matthes hit into an inning-ending double play. Kubal reached when he was hit by a pitch by Nolan Cain.

Avila greeted reliever Shane Ardoin with an RBI double into the left field corner to score Kubal from first base to tie the game at 4-4. May lashed a single to right field for his third hit of the game, before Matthes hit into the double play stranding Avila at third with the go-ahead run.

The Crimson Tide plays two midweek home games this week, hosting Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday, April 8 and Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday. Both games are set to begin at 6:35 p.m. (CDT). Alabama stays on the road next weekend in SEC play as the Tide plays at Tennessee in Knoxville.


*Sophomore left fielder Brandon May (Marietta, Ga.) snapped a 0-for-18 slump at the plate with a solo home run to lead off the second inning. May was 0-for-11 last weekend against Ole Miss and was 0-for-7 in the first two games of the LSU series this weekend. May had four hits and two RBI in the series finale at LSU.

*May's home run was the first by Alabama since hitting three home runs in the series opener with No. 15 Ole Miss on March 28 in Tuscaloosa. The Tide's home run drought covered six games, 57 1/3 innings and 195 at-bats.

*Sophomore third baseman Jake Smith (Shannon, Ala.) drilled a two-run home run in the sixth inning to give the Tide a 7-4 lead. It was Smith's second home run of the season and both have come in SEC play. Also, both home runs have come from the No. 9 spot in the batting order.

*Freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge extending his hitting streak to eight games with a base hit in the third inning. During the streak, Rutledge is batting ..400 (14-for-35) with five runs scored and five RBI. The eight-game hitting streak matches his longest streak of the season. Rutledge also had an eight-game hitting streak from February 23-March 5. In addition, Rutledge has hit safely in 11 of his 12 SEC games this season, including a nine-game hitting streak in league play.

*Alabama played its final game in the 70-year history of Alex Box Stadium. LSU will move into the "new" Alex Box Stadium next year. The new ballpark is located one-half mile south of the current stadium on the corners of Nicholson Drive and Gourrier Drive. Alabama is 80-76-2 (.513) all-time in Baton Rouge. Alabama was 19-5-1 (.780) at the LSU Diamond (1906-37) and is 62-75-2 (.453) at Alex Box Stadium (1938-2008).

*Alabama lost its sixth straight series to LSU at Alex Box Stadium. The Tide has not won a series in Baton Rouge since posting back-to-back series win in 1995-96.

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