Despite entering the week with a .336 average, Blake Dean called himself “as cold as a heart attack” at the plate.
While his 44 hits are among the best on the team, Dean’s worry came with the long ball – or lack of.
With only four home runs through 34 games, he felt behind the eight ball, and slipping deeper into the same early-season trap he experienced during the 2009 National Championship run, where the sophomore entered the month of April with an average barely over .200 and just a pair of homers.
In Friday night’s contest, the first baseman put together a four-RBI performance behind home runs in both the second and fourth innings, giving the Tigers a quick answer – and plenty of breathing room – after the Tide’s early attack.
After Austin Nola put LSU ahead with a solo shot in the first inning, Alabama responded with a four-run second that proved to be the lone blemish on starter Anthony Ranaudo’s sheet.
The big swing came from Lafayette native Taylor Dugas, who knocked a bases-loaded single down the third-base line that scored three Tide runners.
In the bottom of the frame, the LSU bats had an answer, continuing the clutch hitting that began to brew Wednesday night against Tulane.
Leon Landry got the wheels in motion, singling to reach base before advancing to second on a balk, third on an infield groundout and scoring on a wild pitch. Mikie Mahtook continued his hot streak with a triple to right-center later in the frame, scoring Grant Dozar to bring the Tigers within one run.
After Alabama starter Adam Morgan walked Nola, Dean delivered his first long ball, scoring three runners on a shot hit over the right field fence.
“I was very proud of the way we swung the bats tonight,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We faced an early deficit, but we responded with a big inning with some great at-bats.”
LSU tacked on three more runs in the third, using four straight singles and a sacrifice fly from Johnny Dishon to put the score at 9-4.
Dean’s second home run, which led off the fourth inning, was the 50th of his career, which moved him past Albert Belle and into a tie with Ryan Patterson for fifth place on LSU’s all-time list.
Catcher Micah Gibbs, another key bat on the season, knocked a single off the right-field wall in the sixth to help push the lead to 12-4.
The Tide added a final run in the ninth inning to cut the deficit to seven.
Ranaudo (2-0) earned the victory for the Tigers, going six innings and allowing just three earned runs on five hits. He added eight strikeouts before handing the ball over to freshman Jordan Rittiner, who earned his second save of the season. The southpaw allowed just one run over the final three innings.
“I thought Anthony really asserted himself in the latter portion of his outing,” Mainieri said. “He maintained control of the game. Rittiner did a great job as well in not allowing Alabama to generate any late momentum.
“Their efforts put our pitching in great shape for the rest of the series.”
Morgan (4-2), who lasted just two innings before calling it an early night, allowed eight runs on seven hits in the loss.