LSU rallies to stay alive in SEC Tournament

Down to their final strike, LSU scored a pair of two-out runs in the ninth inning to overcome Alabama, 3-2.

HOOVER, Ala. — It was the kind of situation children simulate in their backyards.

Facing elimination, down a run with two outs and a full count, Tyler Moore stepped back in the batter's box with LSU's SEC Tournament fate resting on his shoulders. And he delivered, tying it before LSU ultimately jumped ahead to eliminate Alabama with a 3-2 victory Friday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

After fouling off a pair of two-strike pitches, Moore drilled a double to deep right-center, scoring pinch-runner Jared Foster from first. It was only Moore's second hit of the tournament, and it couldn't have come at more opportune time.

"Those are the moments that you live for," Moore said. "As a little kid, that's what you're thinking about. When you're older, you're going to be in that spot and you're going to come up big. And that's what happened."

Ty Ross followed three pitches later, driving in the go-ahead run with a sharply hit single through the left side of the infield.

"It's obviously a lot less stressful on me after [Moore] came up with a clutch at-bat," Ross said. "He came up huge. In any situation, you're coming up with the same mindset. You're trying to get the run right then and there. He just had a clutch, quality at-bat, and I was hoping to do the same."

Those hits were part of a four-hit ninth inning after LSU's bats had mostly struggled for the third consecutive game. The Tigers had brought in one run against Alabama on seven hits, but four double plays had nullified just about every one of their offensive threats.

That rally-killing bug most severely struck Raph Rhymes, who grounded into three double plays Friday, including one to make two outs in the ninth inning.

"I wasn't going to bunt him," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "I don't play for the tie on the road…He's our middle-of-the-order hitter. He's been driving in runs for his whole career. I wanted to let him hit."

But Christian Ibarra bailed him out with a two-out single to prolong the inning before Moore delivered the game-tying double.

That ninth-inning rally spoiled a special outing for Alabama's walk-on freshman starter Mike Oczypok, who had thrown 8 2/3 innings of one-run ball before disaster struck. He left with the loss but did earn the respect of his opponents.

"He came out like a man possessed," Mainieri said. "He was really going after our hitters…I didn't know that kid was a walk-on, but [Alabama] has a good walk-on. He's a good pitcher."

The Tigers received an equally dominant outing from their starter, Ryan Eades. He needed only 72 pitches to get through seven innings. He struck out four and only surrendered four hits. A two-run fifth-inning was the only blemish on an otherwise ace-like performance.

After Eades walked Ben Moore to open the frame, Mikey White delivered a run-scoring triple to deep-left center. The Tide plated one more when Brett Booth poked one to shallow right field, bringing in White from third.

"Leadoff walks kill you," Eades said. "I left a ball over the plate too…[pitching coach Alan Dunn] talked to me and said ‘you gave up two, don't give up three.' I just tried to minimize the damage and put pitches together."

Those two runs gave Alabama a one-run lead at the time. LSU had previously gotten on the scoreboard in the third courtesy of a RBI-double by Sean McMullen that scored Tyler Moore, who would later score the game-winning run.

LSU would only mount one more significant offensive threat before that big ninth inning. The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but Tyler Moore grounded out to first to kill the rally.

He'd later receive his redemption, serving as the hero for the second straight postseason. Tyler Moore hit a 10th-inning, game-tying home run in the first game of last year's Super Regional against Stony Brook.

He called it "déjà vu all over again" as he prolonged LSU's stay in the SEC Tournament and helped give the Tigers their 50th win of the season.

"Coming up to bat, I was feeling confident," Tyler Moore said. "I was thinking back to that moment and used that to give me a lot of confidence."

LSU will now advance to face Arkansas — who's coming off a bye — at noon Saturday in a rematch of Thursday's contest, a 4-1 loss for the Tigers. Mainieri was undecided on who he'd start on the mound, but did mention Brent Bonvillain and Hunter Newman as possibilities.

Arkansas will counter with Randall Fant, who surrendered three runs in 2 2/3 innings against LSU in the regular season. The winner of Saturday's game will advance to the SEC Tournament championship.

"We're very excited to get another shot at Arkansas," Ross said. "We're definitely ready to get out there and compete. We're going to battle those guys, because they have a good pitching staff."

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