HOOVER, Ala. -- Blake Dean’s three RBI and a solid pitching performance by senior left-hander Ryan Byrd led No.2 LSU to a 6-2 victory over Vanderbilt to capture the 2009 SEC tournament championship Sunday afternoon at Regions Park.
The Tigers (46-16) won their second-consecutive SEC tournament title -- and their conference-best eighth overall -- becoming the first team to win back-to-back conference tournament crowns since Alabama won in 2002 and 2003. LSU won five straight games in the tournament after dropping the opening round game to Vanderbilt, 4-1, on Wednesday.
“I’m so proud of this team,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I told them after the loss to Vanderbilt the first time around that it’s impossible to win every game in one day. I told them to take it a game at a time and to give a great effort every time and they responded like a championship team should.”
The NCAA announced Sunday that LSU would serve as one of the 16 host sites for an NCAA Regional, which will begin Friday. Florida and Ole Miss are the two other SEC schools that will host.
The NCAA will announce the other three teams that will participate in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional on Monday. The selection show begins at 11:30 a.m. Monday on ESPN.
Freshman centerfielder Mikie Mahtook was named 2009 SEC Tournament MVP. Mahtook hit .454 in the tournament, going 10-for-22 with three RBI, two runs scores and 17 put outs.
Dean, who was named tournament MVP last season, had four RBI and five runs scored in this year’s tournament. Nola also scored five runs and had 19 assists defensively, while Bradshaw was the hero in Saturday’s first game with Georgia, as he threw seven scoreless innings and allowed only three hits.
Byrd (1-0) had an impressive performance Sunday, throwing seven innings and allowing only two runs on five hits, while walking one and striking out three.
“I’m so glad Ryan Byrd was able to pitch the way he did,” Mainieri said. “As a senior, he’s meant so much to this program and it was great for him to be able to start the SEC championship game and pitch the way he did.”
Leading LSU offensively Sunday was leftfielder Leon Landry, who went 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored.
The Tigers took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning after Landry led off the game with a double and scored on an infield grounder by Dean.
Vanderbilt starting pitcher Nick Christiani held the Tigers hitless through the next two innings before surrendering a double to catcher Micah Gibbs in the fourth. Gibbs’ double extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
The next batter, Mahtook singled up the middle to score Gibbs and put LSU up 2-0. Mahtook then stole second and advanced to third on an infield single by Jared Mitchell.
The Tigers went up 3-0 after DJ LeMahieu hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Mahtook.
Vanderbilt got on the board in the bottom of the fourth when right fielder Steven Liddle hit a solo homer over the right field wall. It was Liddle’s 10th homer of the season.
LSU responded in the fifth when Nola walked and scored on Landry’s second double of the game, extending the Tigers’ lead to 4-1.
Landry advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Schimpf and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Dean to increase the LSU advantage to 5-1.
After Nola walked and Landry and Schimpf delivered back-to-back singles in the seventh, LSU had the bases loaded for Dean with only one out. Dean blasted a pitch to the warning track in right-center field, but it was caught by Vandy centerfielder Jonathan White. The sacrifice fly scored Nola and gave LSU a 6-1 lead.
The Commodores added another run in the seventh when first baseman Curt Casali blasted a solo homer off Byrd, cutting the deficit to 6-2.
Senior right-hander Buzzy Haydel came in to close the game in the eighth as Byrd got a standing ovation as he left the mound.
Haydel allowed only one hit in the last two innings, while walking none and striking out one.
LSU 6, Vanderbilt 2 (May 24, 2009 at Hoover, Ala.)
LSU.................... 100 220 100 - 6 7 1 (46-16)
Vanderbilt.......... 000 100 100 - 2 6 2 (34-25)
Pitchers: LSU - Ryan Byrd; Buzzy Haydel(8). Vanderbilt - Nick Christiani; Grayson Garvin(5);
Sean Bierman(5); Russell Brewer(8); Richie Goodenow(9).
Win-Ryan Byrd(1-0) Loss-Nick Christiani(5-6) T-2:51 A-7092
HR VU - Steven Liddle (10); Curt Casali (10).
2009 SEC Baseball All-Tournament Team
P Mike Minor, Vanderbilt
P Daniel Bradshaw, LSU
C Andrew Giobbi, Vanderbilt
1B Preston Tucker, Florida
2B Bo Bigham, Arkansas
3B Zack Cox, Arkansas
SS Austin Nola, LSU; Ben Tschepikow, Arkansas
OF Mikie Mahtook, LSU
OF Jonathan Pigott, Florida
OF Steven Liddle, Vanderbilt
DH Blake Dean, LSU
Most Valuable Player: Mikie Mahtook, LSU
Wednesday, May 20
Game 1: #7 Arkansas def. #2 Florida 8-5
Game 2: #6 Georgia def. #3 Ole Miss 6-3
Game 3: #8 Vanderbilt def. #1 LSU 4-1
Game 4: #5 South Carolina def. #4 Alabama 9-5 (11)
Thursday, May 21
Game 5: #2 Florida def. #3 Ole Miss 12-2 (8)
Game 6: #1 LSU def. #4 Alabama, 9-6
Game 7: #6 Georgia def. #7 Arkansas, 2-1 (10)
Game 8: #8 Vanderbilt def. #5 South Carolina, 9-5
Friday, May 22
Game 9: #7 Arkansas def. #2 Florida, 10-7
Game 10: #1 LSU def. #5 South Carolina, 4-1
Saturday, May 23
Game 11: #8 Vanderbilt def. #7 Arkansas, 11-1 (7)
Game 12: #1 LSU def. #6 Georgia, 16-0 (7)
Game 13: #1 LSU def. #6 Georgia, 3-2 (7)
Sunday, May 24
Game 15: #8 Vanderbilt vs. #1 LSU, 6-2