There have been bigger underdogs than Alabama vs LSU throughout history. David vs Goliath, Buster Douglas vs Mike Tyson, USA vs Russia in hockey and I'm sure some obscure soccer match somewhere in the world. However, even though the Tide didn't get the same results, they sure gained a lot of admirers with their grit and pluck displayed at The Hoover Met in losing 3-2 to the Tigers on Friday afternoon.
In keeping with the theme the pitching match up featured future high draft pick, junior Ryan Eades for LSU, against freshmen walk-on Mike Oczypok for 'Bama. Eades entered the game with a 8-1 record, a 2.70 ERA and with 71 strikeouts in 86 innings pitched. Oczypok came into the game with a 4-1 record and had only pitched 29 innings all year. Oczypok was chosen to start simply because he throws strikes, and in going a career high 8 2/3 innings he threw 72 of them out of a total of 117 pitches.
LSU got their lead off batter on base in six of the nine innings, but were only able to score one run in the third and two in the ninth. Oczypok continually pounded the strike zone and kept the ball down which helped to induce four double plays. The big right hander only walked one batter, but he scored. Tyler Moore worked a free pass leading off the third and scored on Sean McMullen's double. McMullen tried to stretch the hit into a triple but was gunned out by a perfect throw by left fielder Andrew Miller to third baseman Kenny Roberts.
Eades was making quick work of the 'Bama batters through three innings, allowing only a Mikey White infield single in the second. White was cut down trying to steal to end the inning. The Tide finally put together a surge in the fifth. Ben Moore drew the teams only walk of the game, and scored when White blasted a triple in the right center field gap. Brett Booth followed with a solid single to center, scoring White. From the sixth inning on the only Tide base runner was Kenny Roberts, who singled in the sixth, was sacrificed to second, but was stranded there. After Roberts single, 12 Tide hitters went down in order, with six of them, including the last five outs of the game, via the strikeout route.
Oczypok kept striding out to the mound inning after inning and continued to amaze the Tide faithful. The Pennsylvania product had not pitched more than six innings in any one game this year. Crimson Tide pitchers of lore that had turned in great performances in the SEC Tournament after being sparingly used in the regular season came to mind, such as Jeffrey Norris and Jeremy Vaughn. Oczypok was poised to join them when he came out to pitch the ninth inning. Mason Katz singled to open the ninth, but was erased by the Tide's fourth double play of the day, this one a classic 6 (short stop Mikey White) to 4 (second baseman Kyle Overstreet) to 3 (first baseman Austen Smith). Christian Ibarra lined a sharp two out single, and was replaced by pinch runner Jared Foster. Oczypok ran the count full to Tyler Moore, and was one strike away from victory. Moore drove a double in the right center gap, scoring Foster from first. After giving his all, and being one pitch from the win, Oczypok was relieved by Jay Shaw, Tuesday's hero on the hill. Ty Ross drilled a single to score Moore and giving the Tigers their 3-2 margin of victory. Dynamite 'Bama closer Ray Castillo was not available due to a sore shoulder.
Eades pitched seven innings for the Tigers, allowing only four hits with one walk, and two runs. Nate Fury pitched the eighth, and was credited with the win. Closer Chris Cotton pitched the ninth to get the save, striking out all three batters he faced.
Oczypok was the losing pitcher, allowing three runs on 10 hits and only walking one. White was the Tides most productive hitter with a 2-3 day with an RBI, run scored and triple. Booth drove in a run with his only hit. Roberts had the only other hit for 'Bama.
Further comparisons magnify the great job the Tide did just to be in the game. LSU has a 50-9 recored. 'Bama sports a 34-26 mark. LSU's team batting average is .310, Alabama's is .257. LSU's team ERA is 2.51, Bama's 3.66. Alec Bregman leads the Tiger's with a .392 average, White's .286 leads the Tide. Katz has 14 home runs for LSU, Booth and Smith have six each for 'Bama. Katz has 64 RBI's to lead LSU, Moore has 40 to lead Alabama. Another words on paper 'Bama has no business being on the field with the Tiger's. However the game is not played on paper, and you can't measure heart and guts, two things this Tide team has above all others.
Now the team must wait until Monday, May 27 at 11 a.m. to find out where they will be sent for the NCAA Tournament, which they will definitely be a part of. The selection show will be shown on ESPNU.
This 'Bama team will a be a very tough draw for someone in which every Regional they land in. If the pitching can stay on track and with the way this team plays defense, they will be in every game. The big question is can they score enough runs to win, not just stay close. Any time this team can score five or six runs, they have an excellent chance to win. Castillo getting healthy is the teams biggest concern this week.
'Bama Baseball Fever, it is time to catch it!
Roll Tide Y'all Roger