Eighth inning explosion

For the second time this week, LSU designated hitter Blake Dean put the exclamation point on an extraordinary Tiger comeback.

With the bases loaded in a 6-6 game, Dean launched a grand slam deep to right field, giving LSU a lead it would not relinquish in a 12-8 win against Alabama.


 “I was guessing fastball, it was 2-0,” Dean said. “I didn’t miss it; it was a great feeling. This lineup just keeps feeding off each other and putting runs on the board.”


The win extends LSU’s win streak to 19, matching a school record. It also marks the 15th time during the in streak that the Tigers have come from behind.


“The guys will tell you that I really don't speak that much about [the streak] to them,” said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. “It's more than obvious that they are aware of it with it mentioned in the paper and on television. I think the reason that we are not focused on the streak is because each game means so much for different reasons. That has kept our minds off of it, that it is a winning streak. Now is not a good time to lose, so we might as well keep on winning."


For the second time in the SEC tournament, it seemed certain the nation-leading streak would come to an end. 


Trailing 3-0, the Crimson Tide (34-26, 18-16 SEC) capitalized on a nightmare fourth inning from LSU starting pitcher Jordan Brown to take a 4-3 lead.


The Tide opened the inning with four of their first five batters getting hits, scoring two runs. With a man on third, Alabama tied the score when Brown threw a wild pitch. Another wild pitch scored another runner for the Tide’s first lead of the game.


Things did not improve for LSU (42-16-1, 21-11-1 SEC) in the fifth inning.


Brown started the frame by hitting Alabama’s Josh Rutledge. A single and a sacrifice fly extended the lead to 5-3 just after Nolan Cain replaced Brown on the mound. One more base hit gave Alabama a 6-3 lead.


Matt Clark did his part to get LSU back in the game and the Tigers’ leading home run hitter opened the sixth inning with a solo homer to right field, cutting the score to 6-4.


In a similar situation to Wednesday’s thriller against South Carolina, the LSU offense sprang to life in the game’s late innings. In innings eight and nine, the Tigers outscored the Crimson Tide 8-2.


Three walks by Alabama reliever Austin Graham, combined with a pair of singles from Leon Landry and Jared Mitchell tied the score and loaded the bases for Dean.


The monster home run, Dean’s first career grand slam, gave him his sixth RBI of the game and gave LSU a 10-6 lead.


Alabama would not go away easily though.


LSU reliever Jared Bradford entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, and promptly walked a batter and allowed a double. A single from Alabama’s Kent Matthes cut the lead to 10-8.


The senior right-hander recovered, however, and forced a double play to end the inning.


The Tigers picked up some insurance runs in the ninth inning as shortstop DJ LeMahieu led off the inning with a double to center field. A sacrifice from Landry advanced LeMahieu to third, and a fielding error by Alabama on a grounder from Michael Hollander allowed LeMahieu to score. With two outs, Mitchell slapped his second-straight base hit to left field, scoring Hollander for the final 12-8 margin.


The Tigers now advance to Sunday’s championship round as the tournament’s only undefeated team. They will play the winner of Saturday night’s Ole Miss-Vanderbilt game Sunday at 3 p.m., and must lose twice to be eliminated.


“It was another great win for the Tigers,” Mainieri said. “We are thrilled to play in the championship game tomorrow."

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