As Easter weekend descends upon us the college baseball world was chocked full of Thursday night action as many conferences are going with a Thursday through Saturday format for their weekend series. In SEC baseball the usual approach applies with a couple of Thursday night games with the remainder of the slate opening up on Friday night.
College Baseball Central Top 25 teams were in road action on the night as the No. 7 LSU Tigers travelled to Hoover to play the Alabama Crimson Tide and the No. 16 South Carolina Gamecocks squared off with the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starksville in what has become a vital series for both squads in the SEC race.
Connor Hale Triple Ends 16-Inning Marathon As LSU Downs Alabama 8-5
LSU players must think that SEC is almost synonymous for extra innings as four of their 10 conference contests have gone to extras. Unfortunately, extra innings haven’t been kind for Bayou Bengals as they were 0-3 in extra-inning games, but that all changed when Hale lined a two-run triple in the top of the 16th to give the Tigers (25-5, 6-4) an 8-5 win over Alabama (15-13, 4-6).
The senior third baseman had quite a night with two hits, a walk, three runs scored and the two, late-inning, game-winning RBI. The four-hole hitter can easily get lost in this potent offense but the triple was his second on the season and the clutch at bat may have been just what the Tigers needed to snap out of their extra-inning woes.
“Sometimes you just need a special play by a special player to break a funk and set things right and get a streak headed in the other direction.” – Minimalist Mark, College Baseball RPI Analyst
The game morphed from an early pitching duel into an extra-inning slugfest. LSU’s Jared Poche’ and Alabama’s Taylor Guilbeau were on their marks, each tossing eight innings. Poche’ struck out six and allowed an earned run off a solo homer in the first by Tide shortstop Mikey White (3) but would rebound to surrender only two hits and two walks afterward.
Guilbeau was scoreless through eight with five strike outs and sought to finish the game in the ninth but wasn’t able and instead watched his 1-0 lead evaporate into a 2-1 deficit.
Yet, Bama would take the bull by the horns and touch up LSU’s closer Jesse Stallings to tie the game at 2-2 and send it to free play. Each team scored twice in the 11th and once in the 13th as they matched one another’s shots until LSU closed it out in the 16th.
Mississippi State Wins Opener, Pounds South Carolina 13-2
The Bulldogs (20-12, 4-6) and Gamecocks (20-10, 5-5) came into this series looking to erase the memories of what has been a disappointing start to SEC play. Mississippi State hasn’t won a series since the calendar turned to March, which includes three SEC series losses while South Carolina started 3-0 in the conference only to drop back-to-back series to Missouri and Georgia.
While 13 runs looks like an offensive explosion, all the hits belonged to five Bulldogs, led by the bottom of the lineup as Ryan Gridley and John Holland each had three hit nights. Gridley scored twice and drove in two while Holland scored a run but drove in a team-high four RBI.
The Bulldogs pounded Gamecocks’ starter Will Crow to the tune of eight runs (6 earned) on seven hits and a pair of walks before chasing him from the game with two-outs in the third. Meanwhile, Mississippi State starter Lucas Laster tossed his second complete game of the season to improve to 4-1, scattering eight hits and a walk while striking out eight and surrendering two earned runs.