Alabama Comeback Comes Up Short

BATON ROUGE, La. – Alabama nearly erased a five-run deficit, scoring three times in the eighth inning before LSU All-America closer Matty Ott got sophomore left fielder Jon Kelton to ground out with the bases loaded, as the Tide fell to No. 6 Tigers 9-7 in front of an Alex Box Stadium record 12,313 fans Saturday night.



Alabama (22-14, 5-9 SEC) dug itself a 5-0 hole in the second inning but slowly chipped away at the LSU lead and closed the gap to 9-7 in the eighth inning when it loaded the bases with two outs. Ott threw one pitch in the eighth inning as Kelton hit a ground ball back to the mound and Ott flipped to first baseman Blake Dean to preserve the two-run lead.

The Crimson Tide scored three runs on four hits in the eighth inning to pull to within two runs. Senior first baseman Clay Jones led off the inning with his eighth home run of the season off Austin Ross to make it a 9-5 game. Senior second baseman Ross Wilson followed with a single up the middle.

Ross got the next two hitters before senior catcher Cody Trotter ripped an RBI double to right-center to score Wilson and make the score 9-6. Freshman right fielder Andrew Miller singled to center to score pinch-runner Brock Bennett to close the gap to 9-7.

After sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas drew a walk, LSU brought in right-hander Paul Bertuccini and he hit junior shortstop Josh Rutledge with a 2-2 pitch to load the bases.

Ott ended the threat in the eighth and then set down the Tide in order in the ninth for his SEC-leading 11th save.

LSU starter Joey Bourgeois (4-1) lasted into the sixth inning for the win. He allowed four runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. LSU pitchers struck out 11 UA hitters in the game.

Alabama right-hander Tyler White, making his first career start, could not get out of the second inning. He retired only four LSU hitters and allowed five runs and six hits with two strikeouts and two walks. He surrendered three home runs in a span of four batters as LSU took a 5-0 lead in the second inning.

"I thought the story to the game was our start on the mound," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "We dug ourselves a hole, 5-0. That is two nights in a row we've had a poor start. They are obviously swinging the bats well and doing a good job offensively. We need a good start tomorrow to keep the game close because there were some good things we did at the back end of the game."

LSU (29-6, 10-4 SEC) scored a pair of two-out runs to take a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Leon Landry knocked in Austin Nola with the first run on a two-out single to center and Matt Gaudet drew a bases-loaded walk to force home Micah Gibbs as the grabbed a 2-0 lead.

The Tigers played home run derby in the bottom of the second inning as Johnny Dishon, Nola and Blake Dean all homered off White to give LSU a 5-0 lead.

"The key to me is not just tonight, but the last few weeks, a lot of the teams we are playing hit home runs because they swing the bats," Gaspard said. "We've been very passive at the plate and not been aggressive. We have to go up there and be aggressive and ready to attack the fast ball and from about the fourth inning on we did that. Then all of a sudden it's contagious. Once a guy barrels up a pitch, it goes to the next guy then the next guy. So, there were some better things in the back end of the game, but too many strikeouts in critical situations for us."

Alabama came back with two runs in the third inning to close the deficit to 5-2. Senior third baseman Jake Smith led off the inning with a solo home run to left-center field to make it 5-1. Dugas, Rutledge and Kelton recorded three straight two hits, with Dugas scoring on Kelton's single to center to cut the lead to 5-2.

LSU got both runs back in the fourth inning when Dishon led off with a triple and scored on Mikie Mahtook's double to right field to push the lead to 6-2. Mahtook stole third base, his 19th stolen base of the year, and scored on Dean's ground out as the Tigers extended the lead to 7-2.

Trotter led off the fifth inning with his first home run of the season to pull the Tide to within 7-3. He had two hits and two RBI on Saturday and threw out one LSU base runner.

Alabama chased Bourgeois with a run on three hits in the sixth inning to close the gap to 7-4. Kelton stroked a leadoff single to right and Jones struck out swinging marking the end of the night for the Tigers right-hander.

Wilson greeted Ross with a single up the middle and Kindred followed with an RBI single to right that scored Kelton, whose head first slide was just ahead of Gibbs tag at the plate to make the score 7-4.

The Tigers put two more runs on the board against Matt Taylor in the sixth inning to take a 9-4 lead. Dishon drew a leadoff walk and Mahtook blooped a double to right to put runners at second and third with no outs.

Freshman right-hander Tucker Hawley replaced Taylor on the mound and yielded back-to-back sacrifice flies to Nola and Dean as LSU made it a 9-4 game.

Taylor and Hawley gave the Tide 5 2/3 solid innings of relief in the middle of the game as the Crimson Tide climbed back into the game.

"I thought Taylor and Hawley, two freshmen, came in and really did a good job just to stabilize the game and give us an opportunity to get back in it, which we did and put ourselves in position against Ott in the eighth with the bases loaded to give ourselves a chance.

"When you dig a hole like that so early, you're constantly fighting from behind and when you have a guy like Ott down in the bullpen, who is an All-American closer. A lot of night's it's hard to finish it off because his stuff is so good."

The series concludes on Sunday at 1:07 p.m. (CDT). Alabama will send junior right-hander Jimmy Nelson (8 GS, 4-1, 3.40 ERA) to the mound, while LSU will counter with sophomore left-hander Chris Matulis (7 G, 5-1, 3.82 ERA).

GAME NOTES:

*Alabama tied its season-high with three home runs against LSU on Saturday. The Crimson Tide also hit three home runs against Stony Brook on March 13. The three home runs were the most in an SEC game this season. Senior third baseman Jake Smith, senior catcher Cody Trotter and senior first baseman Clay Jones all hit solo home runs for the Tide. Alabama and LSU combined for six solo homers in the game.

*Alabama has scored 17 of its last 24 runs with two outs, including three of the seven runs on Saturday.

*Sophomore center fielder Taylor Dugas went 1-for-3 with one run scored and two walks against LSU. He scored his team-leading 37th run in the third inning and now leads the Tide with 40 walks.

*Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge went 1-for-4 and has hit safely in all 17 games away from Tuscaloosa this season, including a 15-game hitting streak in true road games. He also hit safely in both neutral site games against Georgia and Auburn.

*Senior third baseman Jake Smith hit a solo home run in the third inning, his third home run of the season and second in SEC play. It was also his fifth home run in 12 career games against LSU.

*Senior first baseman Clay Jones hit his team-leading eighth home run in the eighth inning. He has homered three times in the last eight games.

*Junior DH David Kindred added his sixth two-hit game of the season against LSU. He also had one RBI.

*Senior catcher Cody Trotter went 2-for-4 with two extra base hits and two RBI. He led off the third inning with a solo home run and added an RBI double in the eighth.

*Junior right-hander Tyler White made his first career start on the mound for the Crimson Tide after 32 relief appearances over the last two seasons. White allowed five runs and six hits in 1 2/3 innings with two strikeouts and two walks. He also surrendered three home runs in a span of four batters in the second inning as LSU took a 5-0 lead. Johnny Dishon's leadoff home run was the first allowed by White since his UA debut on against Illinois-Chicago on Feb. 28, 2009.

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