Ryan Eades was motivated and somebody had to pay the price.
Turned out to be Alabama’s anemic offense.
The LSU sophomore was dominant – very dominant – Saturday, limiting the Crimson Tide to a pair of singles in 7.1 innings. The Tigers’ offense did its fair share, was efficient early and destructive later to spark a 7-1 victory at Alex Box Stadium.
With Saturday’s complete victory, the third-ranked Tigers (29-7, 10-4 SEC) sewed up their third consecutive SEC series win and won for the 12th time in 13 games.
Eades shook off a rocky start last Saturday at Florida in impressive style, delivering the best start of his LSU career.
Alabama (13-22, 4-10), the SEC’s worst hitting team (.255 coming into the series), never scratched much of a threat together on its own.
The only runners who got into scoring position while Eades was on the mound came on his wild pitch in the second inning, a two-base throwing error when Mason Katz tried to throw behind a runner in the fourth and a second walk in the eighth.
Eades retired 15 of 17 batters he faced between the third and seventh innings on the way to his 5th win of the season.
Against Florida a week earlier, Eades lasted only three innings and allowed seven runs on seven hits.
“I just tried to forget about it,” Eades said. “I came out with a fresh start. I worked hard each day leading up to this start and wanted to be aggressive and throw strikes.”
Leading up to the game, LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he expected a bounceback performance and he was prophetic.
“I just believe in the kid so much,” Mainieri said. “He’s a great competitor. He pitches with a lot of pride and, not to mention, he’s a great pitcher. He was focused and he was going to go out there with something to prove. I thought it was his best performance as a Tiger.”
It wasn’t just pitching, either, as Eades flashed some leather.
The Tide was putting together a mild threat in the second when Ben Moore drew a leadoff walk and Jon Kelton got a free pass with one out. Kenny Roberts bunted in the air and it appeared to be a good one, but Eades sprinted forward, dove and snared the ball in the air, got to his knees and fired a strike to second baseman JaCoby Jones for a double play.
“I got a good break off the mound and was able to make the catch,” he said and then smiled. “The throw kind of scared me.”
Like Kevin Gausman the night before, Eades also benefitted from pitching with the lead after the first inning.
Tyler Hanover worked his way on with a one-out walk in the first inning, and Alabama starter Justin Kamplain plunked Mason Katz.
|Raph Rhymes: 3-for-4 with a 2B and two runs scored|
Raph Rhymes obliterated any notion of lingering effects from a concussion the weekend before when he ripped the first offering he got inside the third-base bag for an RBI double.
Kamplain settled in after that and notched four consecutive shutout frames to keep the Tide within striking range.
LSU finally nudged across a third run in the sixth inning. Rhymes spanked a one-out single to center field and Ross rifled a hit-and-run base hit to left field with two outs. That brought Tyler Moore up and he punched a sharp grounder past Roberts at second base for a single to plate Rhymes, but Ross was gunned down at the plate.
Alabama finally got on the board in the eighth inning when Eades walked two hitters, getting his fifth strikeout in the middle.
After the second walk, Mainieri called on let-hander Brent Bonvillain to face pesky Tide leadoff man Taylor Dugas. After falling behind 3-and-0, the Tiger reliever induced a ground ball to Jones at second base. The Tide runners broke on the pitch, but Jones tried to get Hunter Gregory at second. His throw was late and Gregory’s hard slide kept Nola from uncorking a relay throw.
That loaded the bases and Brett Booth produced a run when he flew out to center field to score Roberts. Bonvillain ended the threat when he retired Jared Reaves on another flyout to center field.
If Alabama tightening the score to 3-1 unnerved the Tigers in any way, it didn’t last long.
Facing reliever Charley Sullivan, Katz fell into an 0-and-2 hole, but battled back for a leadoff walk. Rhymes picked up his third hit when he slapped a single the opposite way behind Katz to put runners on the corners.
With the infield in, Nola hammered the first Sullivan pitch he got into left field for an RBI hit and 4-1 cushion.
|Ty Ross: Broke game open with an 8th-inning triple and finished with 3 RBIs.|
Ross twice tried to bunt the runners over, his second attempt just rolling foul. In the hole 0-2, Ross got the count back to full, and with the runners in motion he cranked a fly ball that split the center and right fielders for a two-run triple, the first of his career.
“I normally get that bunt down,” Ross said wistfully. “I was just trying to battle there. With a full count, I knew the runners were going, so I tried to put a good swing on it.”
Center fielder Arby Fields put a bow on a four-run, game-sealing inning when he socked a fly ball to right field to plate Ross.
“That was big for us to answer them after they got that run,” Ross said. “We made some things happen and got the lead a little bigger.”
Nick Goody was heating up to come in with the game in doubt, so he finished the Tide off in the ninth with a 1-2-3 frame.
The series concludes at noon Sunday, with freshman Aaron Nola back in action for the Tigers against Bama southpaw Jon Keller.
Aaron Nola missed his last start after leaving a game against Arkansas on April 1 with a sore shoulder. There’s not a specific pitch count, but Mainieri made it clear he won’t stretch the Tiger rookie very far.
“I’m going to be pretty conservative with Aaron,” Mainieri said. “We’ll let it play out and see how efficient he can be with his pitches and how much stamina he has.”