HOOVER, Ala. – Sophomore right-hander Ben Alsup pitched a one-hit, complete-game shutout, and first baseman Blake Dean and second baseman Tyler Hanover collected three RBI apiece as the eighth-seeded Tigers pounded sixth-seeded Ole Miss, 8-0, in a seven-inning game Saturday at Regions Park to advance to the championship game of the SEC Tournament.
The Tigers (39-20) advanced to their third straight SEC Tournament Final. LSU has won the last two SEC Tournament titles. The Tigers are the first team since the inception of the current tournament format to appear in three consecutive title games. Ole Miss dropped to 38-22 with Saturday’s loss.
Following an hour and a half rain delay prior to the first pitch between LSU and Ole Miss, SEC officials announced that all games Saturday would be only seven innings in order to accommodate time for all scheduled games. Sunday’s championship game will be a nine-inning contest and is slated for 1 p.m. CT.
LSU will play either Alabama or Florida in Sunday’s championship contest, which will be televised by ESPN2 and can be heard on the LSU Sports Radio Network.
“It was a well-rounded, outstanding victory for us today,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “The key to the game was Ben Alsup, who pitched marvelous. We’re honored to get to Sunday again and go for our third straight championship here.”
Alsup (4-0) was nearly flawless in his career-best seven shutout innings with two walks and seven strikeouts. The Ruston, La. native, making his first career start against an SEC team, held the Rebels hitless through the first four innings before surrendering an infield single in the fifth, the only hit Ole Miss posted against the sophomore.
“I had a strong feeling that Ben was ready for a game on this level, and he certainly delivered an outstanding performance,” Mainieri said. “He had good velocity, he kept the ball down, he changed speeds well and he was a fearless competitor throughout the game.”
LSU’s offense was propelled by Hanover, who finished 3-for-4 with a double and three RBI, and Dean, who was 1-for-1 with a solo homer and two sacrifice-fly RBI. Shortstop Austin Nola and left fielder Mason Katz also drove in a run apiece for the Tigers.
After Alsup retired the side in order in the first, Mahtook and Hanover led off the bottom of the frame with back-to-back singles before Dean knocked in Mahtook with a sacrifice fly to left to give LSU a 1-0 lead.
In the third, LSU extended its lead to 4-0 after Hanover singled home Katz, Dean lifted a sac fly RBI and Austin Nola roped an RBI double, all off Ole Miss starter Rory McKean. After Nola’s double, left-hander Matt Tracy entered the game and struck out Landry to end the LSU threat.
Dean’s RBI in the third was No. 258 of his career, putting him in sole possession of second place on LSU’s all-time career RBI list. Dean surpassed Brad Cresse, who had 257 career RBI.
The Rebels’ first hit in the game didn’t come until the fifth inning when first baseman Matt Smith lined a pitch back up the middle that deflected off Alsup’s glove and fell in between the mound and second base, allowing Smith to reach safely. Alsup retired the next three batters in order, including a pair of strikeouts.
LSU made the score 5-0 in the fifth when Dean launched his 11th homer of the season, a solo shot off Tracy. The Tigers added another run in the sixth when Mason Katz singled home Alex Edward, who doubled to lead off the inning, making the score 6-0. Two batters later, Hanover ripped a two-run double to right-center to increase LSU’s advantage to 8-0.