Alabama Snaps Baseball Win Streak, 4-0
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama starting pitcher Adam Morgan fired eight shutout innings and closer Jonathan Smart shut the door on an LSU comeback threat in the ninth as the Crimson Tide snapped the Tigers' winning streak at six games and evened the series, 4-0, on Saturday afternoon in Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
LSU (30-18, 8-15 SEC) out-hit the Tide eight to seven, but the Tigers were unable to muster the same offensive production as Friday's 14-hit parade in Game 1. Alabama (29-20, 11-12 SEC) maintained its second-place position in the SEC Western Division with the win.
The rubber game of the series is set for 1 p.m. Sunday and it will be televised live on Cox 4 in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette. LSU senior right-hander Ben Alsup (6-4, 4.17 ERA) will make his normal Sunday start, while Alabama has yet to name a starter.
Morgan (5-4) scattered eight hits but did not allow a run in eight innings while walking two and striking out five. He benefited from three LSU fielding errors that led to two unearned runs.
"Baseball is a hard game to figure sometimes," said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. "Last night we had some of the best at-bats we had all year and today we did not have many good ones. In this case, you have to give a lot of credit to their pitching. He (Morgan) was getting three pitches over for strikes, and he threw a lot of first pitch breaking balls for strikes. He got our guys into a hole right away. It's hard to compete when you are behind in the count all the time."
First baseman Mason Katz recorded his fourth multi-hit contest in five games with a 2-for-4 effort. Shortstop Austin Nola recorded two hits and second baseman JaCoby Jones beat out a pair of infield singles.
LSU starter Kevin Gausman (3-6) suffered the tough luck loss despite hurling seven solid innings, allowing three runs - two earned - on only six hits. He walked one and struck out a career-high 10 batters, representing the most strikeouts by a Tiger pitcher this season and the most since Anthony Ranaudo fanned 10 against UCLA in last year's NCAA Los Angeles Regional.
Gausman fell into trouble at the game's start when Alabama's Taylor Dugas and Brock Bennett slapped a pair of singles to the outfield. Designated hitter Austen Smith gave the Tide their first lead of the weekend with an RBI single into left field. An error by third baseman Tyler Hanover permitted Andrew Miller to reach, and third baseman Brett Booth took advantage with a fielder's choice RBI groundout. The Tide led 2-0 after one.
"We got off to a rough start there in the first inning," said Mainieri. "You have to give Alabama credit. They had three first-pitch hits in the first inning. We throw first-pitch strikes and the balls just find holes. I thought Gausman did a great job in getting out of a jam and keeping it at two runs."
Second baseman Josh Sanders increased the advantage to 4-0 in the fourth on a grounder that scored Patrick McGavin, who reached on a one-out double to the left field wall. Meanwhile, Morgan cruised through the middle innings retiring 11 straight LSU hitters until Hanover drew a one-out walk in the seventh.
Nola followed the walk with a single through the left side, and Alex Edward's tapper to the pitcher put runners at second and third for the Tigers with two outs. Catcher Ty Ross then flied out to right field as Morgan silenced the threat.
LSU trailed 4-0 entering the ninth inning before putting the first two batters on when Raph Rhymes walked and Hanover ripped a single to left. Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard then elected to bring in his closer Jonathan Smart. Smart quickly put an end to the game when he fanned Nola and induced a 6-4-3 double-play on Alex Edward.
Smart notched his ninth save of the season.