The lead was always just one inning away. The University of Alabama baseball team would score and draw closer to LSU, and then the Tigers would pull a little further away.
No. 15 LSU (29-15, 12-8 SEC) beat Alabama 7-4 (15-28, 2-18 SEC), hitting a solo home run to pull away in the top of the ninth to seal its win. The two teams skirmished earlier in the evening, but Alabama never took the lead.
“We just kept scoring, and they’d answer every time,” head coach Greg Goff said. “Give LSU credit. Once we scored, they just continued to answer. We just ran out of innings.”
The loss clinched Alabama’s seventh straight series loss in conference and its 12th straight conference loss overall.
Senior starter Nick Eicholtz ran into trouble often. LSU had its leadoff man aboard in four of five innings against Eicholtz, and it scored in all four frames. Eicholtz exited after 4 2/3 innings, giving up six runs, five of which were earned.
“His command had been really good,” Goff said. “He got behind some of their hitters. The ball was really sinking tonight … Nick kept telling me ‘It just keeps sinking out of the zone.’ It happens. He’s been great.”
By the time he left, LSU had built all the lead it would need to hold on for the rest of the night. The Tigers worked three walks and 10 hits off Eicholtz. Only one hit went for extra bases, but LSU’s offense keep motoring around the bases.
Two wild pitches and a passed ball did as much damage as any hit from the Tigers’ bats. The first wild pitch, in the second inning, moved a runner to third with no outs. That runner became LSU’s first run.
A wild pitch moved a runner to second base in the third inning, then scored the runner from third on a passed ball. LSU had a 3-0 lead at that point, and Alabama had to catch up. Errant pitches have been a problem for much of the year. UA has 19 passed balls and 69 wild pitches in 43 games this year; it had eight passed balls and 45 wild pitches all of last season.
“Anytime you give up runs, balls in the dirt, things like that, it’s tough to overcome. Especially on the weekends. It’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel a little bit. Overall, I thought Alex (Webb) caught real well, had another good night at the plate. It just seems like maybe we get one or two a game or something.”
Alabama managed seven hits off LSU starter Jared Poche’, but couldn’t break through. He kept avoiding a big inning before turning it over to his bullpen, which shut Alabama out for the final 3 1/3 innings. UA got a strong relief outing from junior Garrett Suchey, who gave up one run in the final 4 1/3 innings.
“Our scouting report was to stick it in and run it out,” Suchey said. “I was trying to stick it in early, just get them off edge a little bit, then come back with the curveball.”
Alabama left with its sixth straight loss, the longest losing streak of the season. Five of those losses have come by three or fewer runs, including three one-run games.
“I just want to say that these guys that put this uniform on every day, they continue to play as hard as they can,” Goff said. “I’m proud of their effort and what they’re doing. It’s a process through this. I just want our fans and our alumni and our players and all the community to understand this and stay with this team. These guys are playing their rear ends off. A break here or a pitch there will make a difference. We have to stay positive with these guys.”