Tigers sweep Tide out of championship, 5-1

The Alabama Crimson Tide came to Baton Rouge needing only two wins or two South Carolina losses to clinch the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship. LSU, however, had other ideas. The Tigers won their 12th straight home game -- including nine in the SEC -- Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium by beating the Crimson Tide, 5-1, to complete the three-game sweep.

Four Tiger batters each had a pair of hits in LSU's 12-hit offensive effort, and second baseman J.C. Holt extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single in the third inning.

Starter Bo Pettit utilized many first-strike pitches and a wicked breaking ball in limiting Alabama to a single run on five hits in the complete-game victory.

LSU (38-17, 19-10) will open play as the fourth seed in the SEC tournament at 5 p.m. Wednesday evening against fifth-seeded Auburn. LSU could have moved into the third seed had Florida lost at Kentucky, but the Gators scored five runs in the ninth for a 5-4 victory. Alabama (44-12, 20-10), the SEC West division champion, will open the SEC
tournament as the second seed and plays seventh-seeded Mississippi State Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. South Carolina won its second overall SEC championship in the last three years.

"Don't count us out of Omaha," LSU team captain Wally Pontiff said. "We have a plane ticket to go there right now."

LSU scored first in the bottom of the third when Holt reached with a leadoff single and took second on third baseman Allen Rice's throwing error. Aaron Hill plated Holt when he laced a liner into center field.

Over the first four innings, Pettit (W, 8-6) faced only three batters above the minimum, getting ahead in the count early and inducing groundouts. In the fifth and sixth innings, he seemed to have control problems, yielding the Tide's only run on three hits and two walks. Pettit later attributed the rough innings not to poor performance, but sneaky play by Alabama.

"I gave up a walk and a hit," Pettit said. "Me and (Chris) Phillips were wondering if they (were stealing) our signs at second base. When (Alabama second baseman Peter) Stonard was on second, I turned around and said, 'You have our signs, don't you?' And he kind of smiled, so I think that's what was happening. They were sitting on my pitches, so me
and Phillips changed it up a little bit."

Pettit finished the game having thrown 156 pitches for nine strikeouts and five walks.

The Tide's run in the fifth came after designated hitter Beau Hearod got a leadoff single and came home on Travis Garner's RBI single to left two batters later.

The Tigers took the lead back, 2-1, in the bottom of the same inning when Sean Barker hit a two-out chopper past shortstop Adam Pavkovich to drive home Chris Phillips, who had led off the inning with a single to left.

Left fielder Matt Heath added to the LSU tally with a leadoff home to right, a laser shot that quickly nailed the second row of signs past the right-field fence. Heath had a part in the Tigers' final two runs as well, plating Hill in the bottom of the seventh by beating out a double play and scoring the fifth and final LSU on Blake Gill's single to center. Heath finished the afternoon 2-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored.

"It feels great," Pontiff said. "It seems we dominated. They couldn't get a good hit on the ball when we were hitting the ball well. We've been getting a lot of good fortune -- baseball fortune. So it's quality for us to win this weekend. It'll hopefully put us in the top 10 in the rankings and give us good momentum going into the SEC tournament."

Alabama starter Shane Sanders lost for the first time since March 30, when he was beaten by South Carolina by giving up four runs on 10 hits in six-plus innings of work.

"There was no pressure for us today," LSU head coach Smoke Laval said. "We were a four-seed (in the tournament) either way. So to play loose, but not lackadaisical. Play loose, but stay focused against a heck of a club and a heck of a pitcher and come out and win a ball game. That's what I was most proud of today, that's all I was looking for."

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