Tigers calm the Tide

After being silenced by eight-seed Vanderbilt the night prior, top-seed LSU faced a win or head home situation on Thursday. 12 hits and nine runs later, the Tigers were still breathing.

HOOVER, Ala. -- Head coach Paul Mainieri's first words at the post game press conference summed it up best.

“We are happy to stay another day,” he said.

Sophomore Anthony Ranaudo –who worked 7.1 innings and allowed three earned runs on four hits – had everything that was needed on the afternoon.

“I asked Anthony this morning if he wanted another days rest, and I can’t tell you how he answered me,” Mainieri said with a laugh. “He was pretty blunt that he wanted to pitch.”

If the Tigers had lost, Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year Louis Coleman would not have made an appearance in Hoover.

While Mainieri admitted that would have left a sour taste in his mouth, Ranaudo had everything handled.

“The one thing that you know about Anthony, as well as Louis, is that when you give them the ball, they go and compete with everything they have,” Mainieri said.

The sophomore right-hander, who moved to 8-3 with the win, was humbled by the praise from his headman.

“It is nice to know that coach has that confidence in me,” he said. “It is nice to be that guy for us – like Louis is.”

After they totaled just one run on four hits against southpaw Mike Minor Thursday night, the Tiger bats exploded on Alabama starter Austin Hyatt.

The senior, who suffered just his second loss on the year, allowed six runs - four earned - on eight hits over three innings of work.

By the end of the night, every player in the Tiger lineup not named Austin Nola had recorded a hit.

“I can’t really put a finger on the turnaround, because Minor was so outstanding last night,” he said. “During batting practice today we were loose and you could see focus. Our guys did a great job [Thursday] against a very good pitcher.”

Ryan Schimpf, who went 3-for-4 with two runs, helped spark the downfall of the Alabama right-hander.

“When Ryan led off with that base hit and hustled it into two bases, that was a spark for us,” Mainieri said.

Four runs would follow the junior’s double in the third frame, extending the Tigers early advantage to 5-2.

Tyler White, who relieved Hyatt, worked from the fourth through the seventh for head coach Jim Wells, allowing two earned runs on two hits over 3.1 innings of work. Yet, the Tide managed just one run behind the right-hander.

When it became southpaw David Head’s turn to take the hill, Mainieri looked to his dugout for help at the plate.

He found Derek Helenihi, a one-time starter who took on a reserve role for the Tigers in 2009.

With two men on, the senior hammered a home run over the left field fence – his third of the season.

“I was ready for coach to come find a right-handed hitter when a lefty was pitching,” Helenihi said. “[Head] left the pitch out there and I got a good swing on it.”

To the Tiger skipper, the feat did not come across as effortless as his senior pinch hitter made it out to be.

After starting at third for the first nine games of the year, Helenihi was replaced by freshman Tyler Hanover. He moved to right field for eight games before he found a permanent spot on the LSU bench the rest of the way.

“I sit here and marvel at the kid for coming in and doing what he did today,” Mainieri said. “Derek could have hung his head and pouted, but he never did that. His home run won the game for us.”

The Tide managed three runs over the final two frames, but it was too little, too late for Wells’ ball club.

Matty Ott, who allowed three hits and an earned run over 1.1 innings of work, recorded his 13th save of his freshman campaign.

Living another day, what was the turning point between the Vanderbilt loss and Alabama win?

“We have a very mature team, and we were going to find a way to bounce back,” Schimpf said. “We came out today with intensity and jumped on them.”

For Ranaudo, the switch flicked on after Minor tossed Wednesday evening’s final pitch.

“I knew we had to win this or go home, so it was a combination of pressure and the desire to get the victory that pulled me through,” he said. “I looked at a guy like Louis and told myself to go out and do a great job for him. I had to be myself, and that was the main emphasis.”

Coleman (10-2, 2.99 ERA) will get the 6:30 p.m. Friday start against the loser of Thursday’s South Carolina and Vanderbilt game.

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