Wise drills game-winning home run

For the second consecutive game, true freshman J.T. Wise provided the game-winning hit for No. 20 LSU as the second baseman broke a 5-5 tie in the seventh with a three-run homer, lifting the Tigers past No. 8 Alabama, 8-6, at Alex Box Stadium.

LSU (26-11, 6-8 SEC) has captured the first two games of an SEC series at home for the first time since 2004. The Tigers, winners of six of their last seven games, go for their fifth straight victory at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The Crimson Tide (26-12, 9-5) dropped its first conference series of the season and has not won a series in Baton Rouge since 1996.

Junior right-hander Derik Olvey (6-1, 2.29) will pitch Game 3 for LSU. Alabama will send freshman right-hander Tommy Hunter (5-2, 2.95) to the mound.

The family of former LSU player Johnnie Thibodeaux will be recognized in a ceremony before Sunday's game. Thibodeaux, a native of Lake Charles, La., died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident on June 17, 2005. A moment of silence will be observed in Thibodeaux's memory prior to the National Anthem.

Wise, who provided the tying and winning singles Friday night, raised his average to .358 with two more hits Saturday. Third baseman Will Harris extended his hitting streak to a season-high six games with his fifth homer of the season and an RBI double.

"He is slowing the game down instead of having to hurry up and do things," said LSU coach Smoke Laval of Wise. "He's comfortable. He caught up to those type of pitches in the summer leagues and so forth. I think now he subconsciously believes he fits into Division I baseball."

The Tigers also got a solid outing from southpaw Clay Dirks, though he was not involved in the decision. Dirks, who was suspended last weekend at Tennessee, scattered nine hits and five runs (four earned) while walking one and striking out six.

"Dirks pitched really well," said Laval. "He always goes out and gives you a good outing, but that rest may have helped him a bit. I thought he had more fastball and more life on his breaking ball than he did his last two outings. Maybe that was a blessing in disguise."

Tide starter Bernard Robert (5-2) took the loss, allowing six runs on nine hits in six innings of work. Robert, a transfer from Southeastern Louisiana, walked two and struck out seven on 112 pitches.

Right fielder Quinn Stewart wasted little time in getting the Tigers on the board, sending his 15th homer of the season over the left field wall in the first inning.

Alabama responded with a blast of its own in the third when shortstop Greg Paiml took Dirks' 1-2 offering into the left field seats.

Robert racked up six strikeouts through the first four innings. In the fourth, LSU put two runners on but designated hitter Jordan Mayer fanned and centerfielder Jarred Bogany grounded into a fielder's choice.

Harris broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fifth with a solo homer before the Tigers finally got to Robert in the sixth. LSU sent seven batters to the plate, which included a one-out double by catcher Matt Liuzza and two-out walk by Mayer. Bogany then guided a blooper into shallow centerfield as the centerfielder and second baseman collided.

Liuzza and Mayer scored, and Bogany scampered into third for his second triple of the season. Harris brought in another run with a double just inside the third base bag, giving LSU a 5-1 advantage entering the seventh.

But the advantage evaporated as the Tide mounted a four-run rally in the seventh. After working scoreless frames in the fourth, fifth and sixth, Dirks surrendered a leadoff triple to right fielder Ryan Rhoden to start the seventh. Left fielder Brandon Belcher drove him in on a double down the right field line.

Paiml reached on an infield single, and Salem capitalized when Wise misplayed a groundball through his legs that scored Belcher. Dirks' day came to an end with runners at first and third.

Reliever Chase Dardar could not hold the lead, allowing two more runs to score on a sacrifice bunt by third baseman Matt Downs and a double from catcher Kody Valverde.

Wise atoned for his error an inning later. Left fielder Bruce Sprowl doubled to the right field gap forcing Alabama head coach Jim Wells to make the move to his closer, David Robertson. Robertson plunked Stewart, and Wise then sent a clutch three-run blast over the left field wall, giving LSU an 8-5 lead.

"I am just seeing the ball and hitting it," said Wise. "I made a big error in the seventh and felt bad for it because Dirks pitched well the whole game. I felt like I let him down a bit, and when I got back up in the seventh inning, I had to hit it again."

Dardar (5-1) earned the win as he escaped trouble in the eighth and gave up a solo homer to Valverde to start the ninth. The right-hander then got the next three batters in order to pick up his fifth win of the year with three innings of relief.

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