HOOVER, Ala. — LSU had seven scoreless innings on Wednesday, but the Tigers only needed one frame with a crooked number to get a 3-0 win against Alabama in their SEC Tournament opener.
The Tigers capitalized on a three-run first inning and rode starter Cody Glenn's dominant performance to a shutout of the Crimson Tide. Though LSU has essentially locked up a national seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers' victory on Wednesday proved they're still hungry for a conference title.
"We want to win this tournament," Mason Katz said. "It doesn't matter what we did in the regular season. People say we have things locked up for the postseason, but we don't care about that. We want to win. I hate losing and so does the rest of our team."
After Glenn worked a scoreless top of the first, the LSU offense unloaded on Alabama starter Charley Sullivan. Sean McMullen kicked it off for LSU with a liner over the outstretched glove of Tide 3B Kenny Roberts. The ball rolled out to left field, but LF Andrew Miller let it slip past him, allowing McMullen to advance to third.
Mark Laird brought him home with a grounder to short.
Alex Bregman picked up where they left off, lacing a standup double down the LF line, his first of three hits in the game. Katz walked behind him before Raph Rhymes came to the plate.
Paul Mainieri called a double steal, and Rhymes dribbled a swinging bunt in front of the pitcher's mound. Both Sullivan and C Brett Booth converged on the ball, leaving home plate unattended. As the throw went to first, Bregman rounded third and scored without a play at the plate.
"He's a playmaker," Katz said. "He looks for [ways] to help us win and he finds them everywhere possible…He's so smart, he knows the game and does everything that people don't expect or even notice, that's why he helps us win."
Christian Ibarra brought in one more run with a RBI-single to center.
"We were just so excited and ready to compete," Bregman said. "We put together some great at-bats, and our whole team had a great outing. We jumped out early and that gave us a lot of confidence the rest of the game."
That early lead allowed Glenn to settle in on the mound. Making his first SEC Tournament appearance, Glenn also notched his first career shutout against a conference opponent, tossing seven scoreless innings of work while surrendering only five hits.
He earned his seventh win of the season — his second on the road — and didn't allow an Alabama base runner to reach second base until the seventh inning.
"Earlier in the season, I struggled to get out of the first few innings," Glenn said. "It's been something I've been working on is to put up quick zeroes and let our offense work it. Our offense putting up three runs in the first inning makes it pretty easy for me to do my job."
After LSU's offensive outburst in the first, Glenn worked a perfect second before allowing at least one base runner in each of the third-through-seventh innings. He worked out of each one though, thanks in part to a pair of double plays involving Mason Katz, who's filling in for the injured JaCoby Jones at second base.
"I haven't turned many double plays," Katz said. "But anyway we can help Cody when he's competing like that, throwing a gem, we're going to try and do that."
After Sullivan struggled to get out of the first inning, he did settle in and was mostly dominant through the remainder of the contest. He surrendered only five hits after that, and LSU went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position against him.
"LSU is a good offensive team," said Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard. "There's always a fear that they can hit it right out of the building. They came out and the guys put some good swings on [Sullivan]. I was really pleased with the way he settled in…and he gave us some opportunities."
But even though Sullivan kept Alabama within shouting distance, the Tide weren't able to capitalize on the few threats they mounted — one of those coming in the eighth inning off LSU reliever Nick Rumbelow.
After a quick out to open the frame, Roberts reached on a single to left. CF Georgie Salem followed that with a hard-hit grounder to first. Tyler Moore was unable to come up with it, allowing both runners to be safe.
But Rumbelow dialed back in, retiring the next two batters to escape the jam.
"I wish Tyler would have made that play, of course it's one that should have been made," Mainieri said. "But then it was great that Nick was able to pitch out of the jam…Nick's been throwing the ball great for an extended period of time now. He's becoming a very dependable guy coming out of the bullpen for us."
Cotton replaced Rumbelow to open the ninth, and he retired the Tide in order to complete his 13th save of the season.
LSU advances to face Arkansas on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Aaron Nola will take the mound for the Tigers and face Arkansas ace Ryne Stanek. LSU faced Stanek earlier this season in a 8-3 loss for the Tigers in Fayetteville.
Stanek tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings with five strikeouts in that contest.
"If you're a fan of baseball, you'll be looking forward to this matchup tomorrow," Mainieri said. "I like to think that Aaron is going to be a first round pick next year. We know Stanek is going to be this year….I know our hitters are looking forward to the challenge."
LSU blanks Alabama in SEC Tournament opener
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