By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Their Southeastern Conference opener pushed back by a Friday night washout, LSU and Alabama aces Alex Lange and Geoffrey Bramblett matched one another zero for zero through six innings on a chilly, windy afternoon where runs was tough to come by.
That’s when the Tide finally broke through.
Catcher Will Haynie broke up the scoreless pitcher’s duel with a two-run double and Alabama pushed across four runs on seven hits in the seventh to saddle Lange with a loss for the first time since his junior year of high school.
LSU’s offense, meanwhile, squandered chance after chance, finishing 0-for-13 with runners on and stranding seven men on base to fall 6-0 in the afternoon portion of a split-admission double header at Alex Box Stadium.
“I think it was one of those games where their kid has a 1.00-ERA for a reason,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He made some big pitches when he needed to. The shocking thing to me, Lange was dominating for six innings and then all of a sudden a couple of kids down the bottom of their lineup put some good swings on balls that, quite frankly, were a little surprising to us.”
It’s the first time LSU has been shut out since a 4-0 loss to South Carolina on April 28, 2013 and the first time the Tigers dropped their SEC opener since 2011. The shutout was also Alabama’s first in Baton Rouge dating back to May 14, 2000.
“You tip your hat to them,” Mainieri said. “They got it done when they needed to and we didn’t. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but there’s no use whining and pouting about it because we’ve got to play again in a short time in some difficult conditions.”
Lange appeared in complete control after stranding the bases loaded in the first inning. Featuring the best command he’d shown all season and a good mixture off all three pitches, Lange allowed just three hits and a walk over his first six frames.
The difference between those innings and the seventh was as simple as firing strike one. Lange jumped ahead in the count on 17 of the first 20 batters he faced before falling ahead on four of the next five and ultimately allowing the go-ahead runs to score.
“I felt really good,” Lange said of the first six frames. “My command was good. Breaking ball was working really good. Changeup was good. 67 pitches through six innings, I thought I was going to go the whole way. Obviously you have to go out there and execute and I didn’t do that.”
LSU (13-4, 0-1 SEC) repeatedly threatened against Bramblett but couldn’t string together enough offense to dent the scoreboard. Alabama (12-5, 1-0 SEC) pitching stranded a Tiger in scoring position for five straight innings from the third through the seventh.
Batting with a man on second and two outs in the fourth, Bryce Jordan scalded a ball that’d likely have wound up in the bleachers were it not for the wind howling in from left.
“The conditions, obviously, were very difficult to hit in,” Mainieri said. “But it’s the same for both teams, and somehow those guys got 12 hits and scored six runs, so you can’t use that as an excuse.”
Antoine Duplantis finished with two of LSU’s five hits to extend his hitting streak to 17 games, good for third among Tiger freshmen dating back to 1997. Kramer Robertson and Greg Deichmann doubled in the third and fifth innings, respectively, only to be stranded.
The Tigers and Tide will play the night portion of the double header at 6:30. Southpaw Jared Poche’ (2-1, 2.49 ERA) will get the start for LSU against Alabama right-hander Jake Walters (1-2, 3.32 ERA).