HOOVER, Ala.- The SEC Tournament continued Thursday in Hoover with the first two teams being eliminated, and Gator Country was there to cover all the action.
LSU 9, Alabama 6
The one-seed Tigers eliminated the four-seed Crimson Tide Thursday afternoon 9-6.
LSU was led by sophomore pitcher Anthony Ranaudo who went 7.1 innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on four hits and four walks. The right-hander also struck out six.
“It wasn’t a real pretty game by either team, but I think the whole key to the game was Anthony Ranaudo,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “He threw very similar to last week. At times, he wasn’t real sharp early in the game, but he was able to find his groove and dominate the middle innings and give our offense a chance to get going.”
The Tigers took the lead with one run in the second inning, as Jared Mitchell scored on a Tyler Hanover single to left field.
Alabama took the lead with two in the third inning off an RBI single by Josh Rutledge, and Vin DiFazio scoring from third base when Ross Wilson was caught stealing at second.
LSU stole the lead back in their half of the third inning. Ryan Schimpf scored on a throwing error by Alabama first baseman Clay Jones and DJ LeMahieu drove in one run with a single. A throwing error by the catcher scored the third run, and Micah Gibbs’ single scored the fourth run of the inning, giving LSU a 5-2 advance after three innings.
After the Tigers gave the lead to Ranaudo, he put it in cruise control, allowing only one run in the next four innings.
“I’m glad to know that coach has confidence in me to be that guy to go out and get seven or eight innings,” Ranaudo said. “At this point in the season, you want to help your team, and I was glad to go out there and pitch well and keep this team going.”
The Crimson Tide had to play after losing the South Carolina early Thursday morning in a game that ended shortly after 2 a.m. central time.
“It is just part of the game and we have done it before and have won,” Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. “It’s just part of it. When you play the late game and you lose, you have to turn around. You want to do well here in Hoover. You want to win it because you are preparing for a regional. I don’t put any credence to fatigue having anything to do with it.”
Alabama power-hitting right fielder Kent Matthes said it was Ranaudo’s ability to locate the fastball and keep them off balance with the off-speed pitches that made him successful.
“Being 6-foot-7 and his frame helps him throw the ball downhill,” Matthes said. “He has a great arm. He has a strong fastball, and he also has a good slider. He really pitched well and I think he is extremely tough on right-handed hitters. He did a good job today.”
LSU advances to play South Carolina at 6:30 p.m. central time Friday.
Georgia 2, Arkansas 1 (F/10)
The six-seed Bulldogs defeated the seven-seed Razorbacks Thursday night in ten innings.
Matt Cerione scored the game winning run on Joey Lewis’ ground ball to Arkansas third baseman Zack Cox, who couldn’t throw Cerione out at the plate after diving to his right to make the stop.
Cerione singled to start the inning and went to third when Rich Poythress doubled to left-center field. Arkansas closer Stephen Richards intentionally walked Bryce Massanari to load the bases before Lewis’ ground ball won the game.
Georgia ace Trevor Holder went eight inning, allowing only one run on five hits. Pitching back in his hometown of Hoover, Ala., Holder struck out only four batters, but kept the Arkansas hitters off-balance all night.
“I felt pretty good today,” Holder said. “I felt that all three of my pitches were working, and (catcher) Bryce Massanari had a great game behind the plate. I feel like we are starting to turn the corner a little bit.”
Holder was not hesitant to thank his defense for the help behind him. The game started as Georgia first baseman Rich Poythress stole at least a double off the bat of Arkansas leadoff hitter Chase Leavitt.
“The main thing that really stands out is the defensive play,” Holder said. “Rich Poythress made a great play in the first, and (center fielder) Matt Cerione made some great diving plays. (Second baseman) Miles Starr came in off the bench and made a big play to really pick me up.”
Georgia scored the first run of the game in the sixth inning as Poythress and Massanari had back-to-back doubles to start the inning.
Arkansas tied it in the ninth inning, after Andy Wilkins drove in Leavitt from third on a sacrifice fly to center field.
Georgia, who came into the tournament losing ten of their last 11 SEC games, but after winning their first two games of the tournament, they now get an off day Friday.
“It has been a rough three weeks for us with not winning ball games and not playing the best ball we can,” Poythress said. “It feels good these past few days to put things together and play as a team with all 25 people. That is what it takes to win in the postseason.”
Arkansas will take on Florida at 4 p.m. eastern time Friday.
Georgia will play next on Saturday against the winner of Friday’s LSU-South Carolina game.
Vanderbilt 5, South Carolina 4
The eight-seed Commodores won their second straight game at the SEC Tournament with a 4-2 defeat of the Gamecocks.
With the game tied at four, Vanderbilt had the bases loaded with two outs in the ninth. Jonathan White worked a walk to bring in the run that would eventually win the game.
South Carolina loaded the bases with one out in the ninth inning, but Vanderbilt reliever Chase Reid got Nick Ebert to pop out to second base, followed by a strikeout from Justin Dalles to end the game.
Freshman pitcher Sonny Gray went seven innings for the Commodores, allowing four runs on eight hits, but striking out a career-high 11 batters.
The Vanderbilt offense scored two runs in the fourth inning on an RBI groundout by Aaron Westlake and an RBI double by Andrew Giobbi. In the sixth inning those same batters hit back-to-back home runs to give Vanderbilt a 4-2 lead.
South Carolina ace Sam Dyson also lasted seven innings, allowing four runs on eight hits. He also struck out seven batters.
The Gamecocks scored their first run in the third inning as shortstop Bobby Haney scored on a ground out by DeAngelo Mack. Haney singled during the fourth inning to score Ebert as South Carolina’s second run of the game and tie it at two.
They tied the game in the eighth inning on an RBI groundout by Andrew Crisp. Ebert scored on a two-out double by Parker Bangs to tie the game at four after eight innings.
The Commodores now get Friday off and will play the winner of Friday’s Florida-Arkansas game on Saturday.
South Carolina will now face LSU on Friday at 7:30 p.m. eastern time.