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LSU Baseball Bats Run Out of Steam Early in 6-5 Loss to Alabama

Rubber match on Sunday becomes most important of season for Tigers fighting for postseason lives

LSU's offense fizzled early and Alabama took advantage of putting runners on base in a 6-5 win that evened the series on Saturday afternoon.

In two games, the LSU (31-19, 10-16) pitching has allowed 26 hits and the amount of baserunners finally caught up with the purple and gold in game two. The Tigers' rubber match game Sunday becomes the most important of the season if the Tigers hope to have a shot at the postseason. 

Getting on base hadn't been Alabama's problem in game one of its series in Baton Rouge. The problem lied that once it was able to get runners on base, it couldn't bring them in. With 13 hits on Friday night the Crimson Tide could only muster one run. 

That trend wouldn't carry over into Saturday afternoon's game as LSU starter AJ Labas was consistently knocked around in four innings of work, surrendering five runs on eight hits. The second LSU starter just hasn't looked the same in his last three starts on the mound as he's allowed 27 hits and 19 earned runs since going a full game against Ole Miss back on April 23. 

The pitching staff just hasn't had much success in fooling the Alabama hitters this weekend and the Crimson Tide were able to chase Labas out of the game by the fifth inning for freshman Javen Coleman, who surrendered a solo home run just three pitches into his appearance. 

"They just took advantage of the scoring opportunities," coach Paul Mainieri said. "It worked out well for them."

It became very clear that LSU's offense would need to carry the Tigers to a series win but for a second straight outing, the offense went cold after the second inning. Dylan Crews and Gavin Dugas blasted back-to-back home runs of their own to get Alex Box to its feet early in the contest. 

Crews would go 2-for-5 at the plate and account for two of the Tigers' three RBI on the afternoon while Dugas went 2-for-4 with two home runs and accounted for the other three RBI.

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But from the third through eighth innings, the offense fell flat. A hit here, a walk there was all LSU could really string together for the bulk of the game as Alabama took and extended its first lead of the weekend. After a four hit first two innnings, LSU was able to muster just three hits the rest of the way. 

"It was disappointing because we seemed to have their pitcher on the ropes there but we let him off the hook," Mainieri said. "A couple of times we had chances but he started landing his slider and kept us off balance and we just hit a lull. They were able to turn the game around."

Coleman was able to rebound after the home run by retiring eight of the final nine batters he faced to give LSU a fighting chance but the offense could just never get going the way it needed. In the eighth and ninth innings, LSU put some good swings on the ball but just couldn't get much to drop on the Alabama defense. 

Tre Morgan was able to record a single in the ninth and was followed by a two run homer by Dugas, his second of the day to make it a 6-5 game with two outs in the ninth. 

Sunday afternoon's game becomes all the more important to LSU's postseason chances with Ma'Khail Hilliard taking the mound at 2 p.m. Mainieri also said he does expect Devin Fontenot to be available out of the bullpen.

"It's pretty important," Mainieri said. "We had a chance to win and let it slip through our fingers. Tough to win in this league and makes tomorrow's game very important.

"We've just gotta come back and play a good game of baseball," Dugas said. "That's all we can do. It's a great game to play, it's a fun game but I think it's important for us to come out tomorrow and enjoy ourselves, compete the way we know how."

Photo courtesy of LSUsports.