Alsup pitches LSU to SEC title game

Published 12:40 am Sunday, May 30, 2010

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Ben Alsup tossed a one-hitter to lead LSU back into the Southeastern Conference championship game with an 8-0 victory over Mississippi on Saturday.

Making just his second start of the season, Alsup (4-0) struck out seven and walked two in a game that was delayed 90 minutes and shortened to seven innings because of rain. He faced only two batters over the minimum thanks to a double play, and the hit he gave up was an infield single that trickled off his glove in a reflexive stab that might have kept second baseman Tyler Hanover from turning it into an out.

‘‘If I let that ball go, I have full confidence in Tyler making that play,’’ Alsup said.

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It was one of his only regrets on the day.

Blake Dean homered and drove in three runs for the Tigers (39-20), who move on to face fellow tourney unbeaten Alabama for the title Sunday. The defending national champions have won the past two SEC tournaments but squeaked into the field as the No. 8 seed after late-season struggles.

The Tigers have won 12 of their last 13 SEC tournament games and are seeking their ninth title.

Ole Miss (38-22) went 2-2 in the tournament after ending the regular season on a five-game skid, but fizzled at the end. The Rebels had to beat the Tigers twice to move on to Sunday but gave up three runs in the first three innings of the opener and never rebounded.

‘‘I thought they were tremendous today and just totally outplayed us in every phase of the game,’’ Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said.

Ole Miss played until the late evening on Friday before beating Auburn in 10 innings and nearly four hours, but Bianco wasn’t prepared to blame his team’s play on a quick turnaround.

‘‘I was disappointed with our energy,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t have an answer but they had a lot more energy than we did and played better than we did.’’

Alsup didn’t give up a hit until Matt Smith led off the fifth with a grounder up the middle. He then set down the side with two strikeouts and a flyout.

‘‘I thought he was absolutely marvelous,’’ LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. ‘‘He was in complete control and he was fearless out there.’’

Added Mississippi’s Smith: ‘‘He got ahead the majority of the time and was just mixing it up and we were a tick late on his fastball and couldn’t hit the breaking ball. We’ve got to hit one or the other. You can’t give him both.’’

Mainieri said he might have found a third starter in Alsup. It was the third straight strong outing by one of his starting pitchers in the tournament, with both Austin Ross and Anthony Ranaudo pitching into the eighth.

Alsup said his mentality was just get ahead in the count and play aggressively. ‘‘If you hit it, I’ve got a great defense behind me. Take your chances,’’ he said.

Dean also drove in two runs on sacrifice flies. He is now 7-for-11 in the tournament with four RBIs.

Tyler Hanover went 3-for-4 with a double and three runs batted in. Mikie Mahtook scored three times and reached on all four plate appearances.

Mason Katz had two hits and an RBI.

The Tigers tacked on three runs in the sixth.

The weekend was still a nice rebound for the Rebels going into an NCAA regional.

‘‘I think it was definitely a confidence builder for us,’’ Smith said.