Loss To LSU In SEC Doesn't Dim Bama Year
It should not be forgotten that Alabama was picked by Southeastern Conference coaches to finish last in the SEC Western Division. Instead, Bama finished in a tie for fourth overall in the SEC, second in the West, and made a nice run into the SEC Tournament before bowing out Saturday afternoon.
LSU extended the nation's longest winning streak to 19 games and moved to within one win of the 2008 SEC Tournament championship with a 12-8 come-from-behind win over Alabama in front of 12,324 fans at Regions Park in Hoover in the tournament semifinals Saturday.
Alabama (34-26) was eliminated from the SEC Tournament and will wait to find out its NCAA Regional destination on Monday at 11:30 a.m. (CDT) when the 64-team bracket is unveiled live on ESPN.
LSU (42-16-1) scored six runs in the eighth inning, highlighted by Blake Dean's grand slam, to advance to the title game for the first time since a 10-3 loss to Alabama in 2003. The Tigers will play the Ole Miss-Vanderbilt winner at 3:06 p.m. (CDT) on Sunday in the SEC Championship game.
The Tigers sent 10 batters to the plate in the six-run eighth inning, taking advantage of three walks by closer Austin Graham. Matt Clark led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on Leon Landry's one-out single to right. Graham then walked Ryan Schimpf to load the bases and then walked Michael Hollander to force in a run as LSU cut the lead to 6-5.
Josh Copeland replaced Graham, who allowed four of the six batters he faced to reach base, and promptly gave up a game-tying single to Jared Mitchell before Dean slammed a 2-0 pitch over the right field wall to give LSU a 10-6 lead. It was Dean's second game-winning home run of the tournament. He hit a walk-off home run to beat South Carolina, 5-4, in LSU's first round win.
Alabama scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and brought the tying run to the plate against LSU relief ace Jared Bradford, but could get no closer than 10-8.
Junior left fielder Tyler Odle drew a four-pitch walk to open the bottom of the eighth and sophomore third baseman Jake Smith, a teammate of Bradford at Hueytown (Ala.) High School, doubled off the right field wall. After Alex Kubal struck out, freshman shortstop Josh Rutledge lined a single to center to score both runners and cut the lead to 10-8.
LSU tacked on a pair of unearned runs in the ninth inning to make the final score 12-8. DJ LeMahieu scored on an error by Smith at third base to give the Tigers an 11-8 lead and Mitchell's RBI double made it 12-8.
LSU's Anthony Ranaudo (1-0) earned his first win of the season with two scoreless innings of relief. Graham (6-2) took the loss for Alabama as he allowed three runs on one hit and three walks in two-thirds of an inning.
Alabama had scored six runs in the fourth and fifth innings to erase a three-run deficit and take a 6-3 lead.
In the fourth, the Tide scored four times to take a 4-3 lead, scoring the tying and go-ahead runs on wild pitches by LSU starter Jordan Brown. Junior catcher Alex Avila and sophomore DH Brandon May opened the inning with back-to-back singles. After senior first baseman Matt Bentley popped up to left field, junior right fielder Kent Matthes lined a double down the left field line to score Avila with the Tide's first run of the game. Odle reached on a fielder's choice when Schimpf tried to throw out May at home on slow ground ball to second base.
Brown uncorked the first of two wild pitches in the inning, allowing Matthes to score the tying run from third base. Odle advanced two bases on the first wild pitch and scored when Brown bounced another breaking ball past the catcher as the Tide took a 4-3 lead.
Alabama starter Robert Phares allowed three runs and five hits in four innings before turning the game over to senior left hander Will Stroup.
Brown gave up six runs and seven hits in four-plus innings for LSU. He left the game after the Tide put runners at first and third with no outs in the fifth inning. He hit Rutledge and Wilson followed with a base hit to center field, sending Rutledge to third base with no outs. Avila's sacrifice fly off reliever Nolan Cain to give UA a 5-3 lead. Wilson moved to third on a hit-and-run single to right by May and scored on Bentley's ground out to put UA in front 6-3.
LSU first baseman Matt Clark's 21st home run of the season cut the lead to 6-4 in the sixth inning.
LSU used three straight one-out singles to grab a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning. Michael Hollander and Jared Mitchell collected back-to-back singles and moved to second and third on a wild pitch by Phares, before Blake Dean followed with a two-run single to right field to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
The Tigers added an unearned run in the fourth inning to stretch its lead to 3-0. Aided by a pair of UA errors, LSU had runners at second and third with no outs, but scored its only run on Schimpf's sacrifice fly.
*Alabama played its 10th straight game against a Top 25 team when the Crimson Tide squared off with LSU in Saturday's second semi final game. The Crimson Tide is 6-4 (.600) in those 10 games with wins over Florida (2-1), Georgia (3-1), Kentucky (1-1) and LSU (0-1).
*Alabama went 2-2 at the SEC Tournament, with wins over No. 7 Georgia and No. 19 Kentucky and losses to No. 19 Kentucky and No. 8 LSU.
*The session six attendance of 12,324 was the largest crowd of the 2008 SEC Tournament and the fifth largest session attendance in tournament history.
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