It was a big night for the offense, especially compared to Wednesday night. Everyone in the lineup had a hit except for Nola, who drew a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Anthony Ranaudo had a dominant day on the mound, pitching 7.1 innings, including 4 different 1-2-3 innings and 6 strikeouts.
Paul Mainieri, who I have accused of not paying attention to matchup situations, made the wise decision to start Leon Landry against right-handed pitcher Austin Hyatt, and then made the even wiser decision to take Landry out late in the game when Bama brought in a left-handed reliever. Pinch hitter Derek Helenihi promptly swatted the first pitch he saw out of the park for what ended up being the game-winning hit, a three run 7th inning homer.
Ryan Schimpf had three hits and two runs scored as LSU really got to the Bama ace, including getting a big 4-run 3rd inning in which we batted around the order. Austin Hyatt really didn't pitch poorly, I suppose. We didn't really hit him hard, and did not get a home run or a gapper against him. We just nickeled and dimed him to death, and Bama's defense failed behind him, committing 3 errors in the game, all of them costly.
Ranaudo earned the win, but he had one rough inning, the 3rd, when he walked 4 Bama hitters. Bama was dumb enough, however, to give us two outs on the bases, one of them intentional. SEC coaches would do well to realize that it does not pay to trade outs for runs.
In the top of the third, Ranaudo walked to first two hitters, then induced a pop out. After giving up a single to drive in a run and leave runners on the corners with one out and one of their best hitters at the plate, Bama decided to get cute and call a Little League play. They called for the runner at first to break for second and stop halfway through, inducing a rundown to allow the runner from third to score. The runner scored, and Bama took a 2-1 lead, but now instead of having runners at the corners with one out, they had bases empty and two outs, with one run in. I fail to see how they improved their situation.
In fact, Ranaudo went on to walk Ross Wilson, then walked Kent Mathes, before Wilson was caught stealing to end the inning. So in an inning in which Ranaudo walked 4 batters and gave up a base hit, Bama scored only two runs and only made Ranaudo get one hitter out. It was a hugely important escape, because we avoided a big inning, and we would go on to get our own big inning immediately following, as Bama allowed us to get our first three runners on and then committed two errors and gave up two singles to allow us to score 4 runs. The differences between those times at bat were that Bama was willing to trade an out for a run and then made a baserunning error to get only a small inning. LSU played for the big inning and got it, even though we didn't really hit their pitcher hard.
Bama played for two runs and got two runs. We played for a big inning and got 4 runs. It made a huge difference as the game went on. The inning nudged Bama starter Austin Hyatt out of the game and surprisingly the Bama bullpen did well until the Helenihi home run. Bama reliever Tyler White went three scoreless innings to give Bama's offense a chance to get back into the game. They didn't do anything with that chance, but they got the chance. He allowed the first two runners on in the 7th before giving way to David Head, who then promptly gave up a home run that iced the game.
When Ranaudo ran out of gas in the 8th with a 6 run lead, Mainieri went with Buzzy Haydel in relief. It wasn't buzzy's best outing, as he walked in a run and allowed the runner he inherited to score, necessitating a call to Matty Ott to get the last out in the 8th with the bases loaded and a 4-run lead. Ott closed out the game.
We get the loser of Vandy and South Carolina, and we won't know who that is until we wake up tomorrow. Bama is eliminated, but probably didn't need to do anything here anyway.