Alabama sends Tigers to loser's bracket

PLANT CITY, Fla.-- Paced by a three-run sixth inning, the Alabama Crimson Tide sent LSU into the loser's bracket of the SEC Tournament as they defeated the Tigers 3-1. <br><br>LSU now must battle through the loser's bracket if they are to retain their tournament championship. The Tigers play South Carolina tomorrow at 1 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game.

If the Tigers were to win, they would have to play a second game at 7:00 pm against the loser of Florida vs. Georgia.

After Staci Ramsey and Deasy Phillips reached on infield singles and were moved into scoring position by Jennifer Reach's sacrifice bunt, Girouard elected to intentionally walk Ashley Courtney to load the bases. Centerfielder Jackie Wilkins drove in the tying run with a groundout. Girouard then elected to walk first baseman Jackie McClain to again load the bases. Alabama starting pitcher Stephanie VanBrakle then lined a 1-2 pitch past a diving Sara Fitzgerald, driving in two runs giving the Tide a 3-1 lead.


Leaving seven runners on base, LSU head coach Yvette Girouard said her team could not cash in on their opportunities.


"We had a ton of missed opportunities," Girouard said. "We hit the ball hard at times but it just couldn't find an opening somewhere. Alabama just seems to have a knack for doing this. They got it done in the prime-time situation and we didn't and really that's the bottom line."


The Tigers (46-15) pushed a run across in the sixth inning without the benefit of a hit when second baseman Sara Fitzgerald scored on a passed ball.


The most glaring missed opportunity for the Tigers was the third inning. After Blair Smith and LaDonia Hughes both reached on singles, LSU had runners on second and third with only one out.


VanBrakle thwarted the Tiger threat as she struck out Fitzgerald and after an intentional walk to Christy Connor she struck out Alicia Owen.


Kristin Schmidt (31-12) was brilliant for five innings as the junior from Houston allowed only one runner to reach base until the sixth inning.


Girouard was happy with Schmidt's performance but said she and the rest of Tigers must learn how to finish the game start to finish.


"We always talk about finishing the game," Girouard said. "Even if the pitcher has to pitch 20 innings, we have to be a little tougher than this. We played well, but Alabama just got the clutch hit and we didn't."


Schmidt was disappointed in the defeat but said the Tigers will be ready to bounce back tomorrow.


"They (Alabama) came out and got the clutch hit when it counted," Schmidt. "We played well, but we just have to come out tomorrow and win. We just have to put this game behind us and think about tomorrow."


With the possibility of throwing two games tomorrow, Girouard thinks her ace in the circle will be up to the challenge.


"She has got to pretend like she's 12-years-old again," Girouard said.


With the chance of playing two games tomorrow, Schmidt said the entire squad must be focused.


"I just think we need to do whatever it takes to win tomorrow," Schmidt said. "Take it one inning at a time, one pitch at a time."

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