LSU stays alive with win over Alabama

Published 1:13 am Friday, May 22, 2009

HOOVER, Ala. — LSU pinch hitter Derek Helenihi blasted a three-run homer and starter Anthony Ranaudo pitched a solid 7.1 innings as the top-seeded Tigers eliminated fourth-seed Alabama 9-6 Thursday afternoon at Regions Park.

The Tigers (42-16) will face the loser of Thursday night’s Vanderbilt-South Carolina game at 6:30 p.m. today.

Alabama dropped to 37-19 overall and will await its seeding in the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced Monday.

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Ranaudo (8-3), a second-team all-SEC selection, had another brilliant performance, throwing 7.1 innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits while striking out six.

“There’s one thing I know when Ranaudo is on the mound,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He is always going to go out there and compete with everything he’s got. I asked him this morning if he wanted an extra day of rest and he gave me a pretty blunt response, so I knew he was ready to get out there and give us a good game.”

The Tigers erupted offensively with 12 hits, led by first baseman Ryan Schimpf, who went 3-for-4 with two runs scored.

LSU took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning when Tyler Hanover singled home Jared Mitchell, who doubled two batters earlier.

Alabama got on the board in the third when shortstop Josh Rutledge singled up the middle to score leftfielder Tyler Odle, who walked to lead off the inning. The Crimson Tide made the score 2-0 when Rutledge got caught in a run down between first and second, giving catcher Vin DiFazio time to scamper home from third.

The Tigers responded in the bottom of the frame with a double by Ryan Schimpf to lead off the inning. Schimpf was followed by a Blake Dean walk and an infield single by Mikie Mahtook to load the bases for Mitchell with no outs.

Mitchell reached safely on a fielder’s choice and Schimpf scored when the throw to the plate got away from DiFazio to tie the game at 2-2.

The next batter, second baseman DJ LeMahieu delivered a full-count single to score Dean and give the Tigers a 3-2 lead with no outs. Hanover followed with an infield grounder that got Mahtook thrown out at the plate, but allowed Mitchell to score when DiFazio’s throw back to first was mishandled by Alabama first baseman Clay Jones.

Catcher Micah Gibbs followed with a single through the right side to score LeMahieu and put the Tigers ahead 5-2, capping a four-run third inning for LSU.

Alabama starter Austin Hyatt left the game in the fourth after allowing back-to-back singles to Schimpf and Dean. Crimson Tide right-hander Tyler White came on in relief for Hyatt.

The Tigers added to their lead later in the inning when LeMahieu reached base on a fielding error by Alabama second baseman Ross Wilson, allowing Schimpf to score from third. LSU led 6-2 after four innings.

Hyatt (8-2) allowed six runs (three earned) on eight hits in three innings of work.

Alabama cut the deficit to 6-3 in the fifth when Rutledge singled to right and Odle scored after Mitchell mishandled the ball in right field.

The Crimson Tide brought in left-hander David Head in the seventh after White hit Gibbs and Austin Nola consecutively.

Helenihi pinch hit for the next batter Leon Landry and crushed Head’s first pitch over the wall in left to increase the LSU lead to 9-3.

Alabama cut into LSU’s lead in the eighth when Brandon May reached on an error by Hanover, scoring Rutledge and making the score 9-4. The Crimson Tide made the score 9-5 when LSU reliever Buzzy Haydel walked pinch hitter Del Howell with the bases loaded.

Matty Ott came in for Haydel and got the third out in the inning on one pitch. Ott got his 13th save of the year after closing out the ninth despite surrendering a run on a double by Kent Matthes.