The Alabama Crimson Tide continued their "close but no cigar" play by twice taking third ranked LSU to the brink, only to come up short in the end. 'Bama and the Tigers went 16 innings on Thursday before LSU pulled out an 8-5 victory. Friday's second game was a 6-2 victory for the Bengals, and the third game on Saturday went 13 innings before the Tide succumbed 6-4. 'Bama is now 15-15 (4-8) on the season, while LSU improved to 27-5 (8-4.)
Thursday- Game One- Lost 8-5 (16 innings)
In the longest game (by time) in Crimson Tide history, a whopping 5 hour and 35 minute affair, 'Bama led for eight innings, came back three separate times, and gave out in the end, losing 8-5 in 16 innings. Going into the ninth inning the game was on pace to be played in under two hours.
Taylor Guilbeau started on the mound and pitched brilliantly, taking a three hit shut out into the ninth inning. Mikey White lined a first inning home run off of Tiger starter Jared Poche', and the one run looked like all the Tide would need. After that Guilbeau and Poche' matched zeros in a classic opening night pitching duel. Guilbeau got into trouble in the ninth when All American shortstop Alex Bregman laced a leadoff double, followed by a single by Conner Hale. At that point, with 100 pitches under his belt, the lefty Louisiana product was lifted for Ray Castillo.
Kade Scivicque greeted Castillo with an RBI single, followed by a sacrifice fly off the bat of Andrew Stevenson, giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead. A single and strikeout followed bringing Thomas Burrows to the mound for the Tide. Burrows got a ground ball to end the top of the ninth, with 'Bama trailing for the first time in the game.
Needing a run to stay alive, Georgie Salem led off the bottom of the ninth with his first triple of the year, and scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Mikey White. Burrows pitched a perfect 10th , but in the 11th the lead off hitter reached on an error, and with two outs Chris Chinea hit a controversial home run. The ball, to dead center field, was first called a double, before, after protest from LSU coach Paul Mainieri, was changed to a home run. Center fielder Salem vehemently argues that the ball hit the top of the wall, and was not a home run. The extra run would prove costly.
'Bama battled back in the bottom of the 11th to tie the score with two runs of their own. Chance Vincent was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Salem singled with one out, followed by a White walk to load the bases. Kyle Overstreet drew a free pass to score Vincent, and Salem scored when Tiger pitcher Parker Bugg balked, tying the score at four apiece.
In the 13th inning LSU scored a run off of the fifth Tide pitcher, Mitch Greer on a single and a two out double. Once again 'Bama answered in the bottom half. Salem reached on an error, advanced on a Casey Hughtson single, and scored on a hit by Kyle Overstreet. J.C. Wilhite followed with a walk, giving the Tide a golden opportunity to win the game, having the bases loaded with only one out. Alden Cartwright recovered to strike out Daniel Cucjen and Will Haynie to extend the game to the 14th inning.
Wilhite came in to pitch for the Tide in the 14th and didn't allow a run. 'Bama was set up once again to win the game in the bottom half of the inning. Chandler Avant led off with a single, and Salem hit a long drive to left (opposite field) that appeared to be over the outfielders head. Somehow left fielder Beau Jordan made a spectacular, diving over the shoulder catch to rob Salem, and to double Avant off of first, as he was almost to third base by the time the catch was made.
The Tigers finally got to Wilhite in the top of the 16th with two walks and a two run triple, followed by a sacrifice fly, to take an 8-5 lead. The Tide actually to two base runners on in the bottom half on a hit by pitch to Cucjen and a single by Vincent, but could not muster another rally, following by the final of 8-5.
Both teams used seven pitchers in the marathon. LSU left 14 runners on base, while the Tide stranded 11.
Friday - Game Two - Lost 6-2
'Bama's Will Carter faced off with Tiger freshman Alex Lange in Friday's game two. The Tide seemed to play with out a lot of energy and enthusiasm after the long, heartbreaking late night loss on Thursday. LSU scored one in the first, and got a solo homer from Chris Chinea in the fourth, but from there Carter held them down pretty well until the seventh inning. LSU used a walk, two singles and an error to plate three runs for a 5-2 lead. Carter had one of his better outings of the year, pitching 6.2 innings, allowing eight hits, walking two and striking out six. The junior righty allowed four runs (two earned) in his longest action of the year.
The Tide finally broke through in the bottom of the seventh with two runs, chasing Lange from the game after 6.2 innings pitched. Mikey White doubled with one out, and Kyle Overstreet joined him on the bases with a two out walk. J.C. Wilhite singled in one run as did freshman Cody Henry, bringing the tying run to the plate with two outs, but the Tide could do no further damage.
LSU added one more run in the top of the eighth making the final margin 6-2 in the 3 hour 5 minute affair. The Tide did collect 11 hits and six walks, but stranded 13 runners on base in a game that never seemed very close.
Saturday- Game Three-Lost 6-4 (13 innings)
Sophomore Hoover native Geoffrey Bramblett started on the mound for the Tide, with freshman right hander Jake Godfrey throwing for the Tigers. LSU came out swinging and plated two runs in the first on a single, triple and double, for a quick 2-0 lead. However 'Bama answered with four runs of their own in the bottom of the first. Georgie Salem and Mikey White both singled with one out, followed by a Casey Hughston walk to load the bases. Kyle Overstreet singled in two runs,and a J.C. Wilhite single brought in another. Will Haynie lifted a long drive to right center that somehow fell near the wall for a 395 foot single for the fourth run. Austin Bain replaced Godfrey and recored the next two outs, ending the inning with a 4-2 Tide lead.
Bramblett did not have his best stuff, butt battled through the fifth inning. LSU was able to tie the game in the top of the fifth on a single by Mark Laird, followed by an RBI double from Alex Bregman. Bregman then scored all the way from second base on a wild pitch.
From that point Ray Castillo replaced Bramblett in the sixth, and had an outstanding outing, going the next 5.2 innings scoreless, allowing four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Bain was amazing for the Tigers, lasting 6.2 innings with only three hits allowed, one walk and nine strikeouts.
'Bama had chances to take the lead, but left the bases loaded in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings. In the sixth Bain hit three straight batters with three straight pitches to load the bases with one out, but got a short fly ball and ground out to end the threat. In the seventh, White led off with a double, followed by a one out walk to Overstreet. With two outs Cody Henry lined a shot up the middle that hit off of Bains foot for single, loading the bases. However another strikeout to end the innings left all runners on base.
The Tide's best chance came in the bottom of the ninth. Overstreet single with one out, followed by a Wilhite single to right. Daniel Cucjen was brought in to pinch run at second, and tried to score when Cody Henry lined a single to center. Center fielder Andrew Stevenson came up throwing and on a close play at the plate, Cucjen was called out.
Thomas Burrows had relieved Castillo in the 11th, and ran into trouble in the top of the 13th. After striking out the lead off man, a walk was issued to Stevenson. Stevenson stole second and continued to third when Taylor Poe's throw sailed into center field. Burrows attempted to pick Stevenson off of third and threw the ball away, allowing the run to score. Chris Chinea then singled, stole second, continued to third when the throw went into centerfield, and scored on a Jake Fraley single, giving the Tigers a 6-4 lead. In the bottom of the 13th the Tide could only manage a Salem two out double, and the game ended in another heartbreaking loss, by a 6-4 count.
'Bama stranded 14 runners in this game, including the bases loaded three times, and collected 14 hits and three walks. LSU had 15 hits and drew four walks, stranding nine runners on base.
The Tide was two great plays by LSU outfielders away from winning the series two games to one, but instead were swept for the first time this season. Jordan's great play on Salem's drive in Thursday's game saved that game for the Tigers, and Stevenson's perfect throw to the plate to nail Cucjen saved Saturday's game for the Bayou Bengals. Their is a reason LSU is 27-5 and ranked third in the country, and making plays when you need to is a huge part of that. 'Bama is right on the fringe, playing toe to toe with teams like Texas A&M, Florida and LSU, but seems to come up just a little short, missing that clutch hit, clutch play in the field, or clutch pitch in a tight situation. The Tide is not far away, but must start finishing, making the key play when it needs to be made.
*Cody Henry was 5-11 on the series
*Georgie Salem was 6-15 with a double and a triple
*Mikey White was 6-16 with a home run and a double
*Casey Hughston was 6-17
*J.C Wilhite was 4-17
The Tide returns to action Tuesday, April 7th, traveling to Samford to play the Bulldogs at 6 p.m. The Tide beat the Bulldogs 8-6 on March 17th. The game will only be available by local radio and game tracker. The next SEC series is a home affair with the Georgia Bulldogs on April 10, 11 and 12.
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