No. 4 Alabama at No. 7 LSU
Schedule: Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
Where: Tiger Park, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Records: Alabama 47-6, 15-6 SEC; LSU 40-12, 14-7 SEC
TV: ESPN2 Friday, SEC Network Saturday and Sunday
Radio: 93.3 FM
After losing a 13-inning softball game on a hot, muggy day to close out a miserable series with an even bigger SEC series on the horizon, there is only one thing to do.
“We need to flush it, get rid of it and get ready to play LSU,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said earlier this week after the Crimson Tide dropped a series against Kentucky at Rhoads Stadium last weekend.
Alabama didn’t take care of business against Kentucky and now has to win two games in Baton Rouge against LSU to clinch the SEC regular-season title and top seed in next week’s conference tournament in College Station, Texas. One win would give the Crimson Tide a share of the title with the Tigers. An LSU sweep gives it the league title and top seed at the SEC tourney.
Ole Miss could claim the title with a sweep against Georgia and if LSU wins twice against Alabama.
There are several ‘what-if’ scenarios, but Alabama can eliminate all that with a good performance this weekend.
“Going into LSU we know we want to be aggressive and swing at the pitches we know that we can hit,” Alabama outfielder Elissa Brown said. “At practice we’ve been working on the long ball and the short ball because we know LSU has speed and a lot of power. We know what we can do and we want to be prepared for what they can throw at us.”
To do that, the Crimson Tide’s going to have to do much better than last week’s effort against Kentucky. For the series, Alabama left 17 runners on base and failed seven times at the plate with runners in scoring position. Twice runners were thrown out (once at third base and another at home), and in the 13-inning marathon Alabama had just three base runners on one hit over the final seven innings.
“That is the magic formula in baseball and softball, to get the key hit – especially a two-out hit. That’s a killer in softball,” Murphy said. “It’s a matter of or resiliency and grit. We told them Tuesday that they played hard and nobody gave up. They just beat us fair and square.
“The biggest thing for me was the passiveness of our hitters. There were some really good pitches that we just didn’t swing at for whatever reason. This is a mental game, especially hitting.”
LSU enters the final regular-season series as the league leader in average (.324), slugging percentage (.547), on-base percentage (.430), hits (427), RBIs (309) and total bases (721).
The Tigers’ offense starts with leadoff hitter Aliyah Andrews, who leads the league with 67 hits, runs scored (59) and stolen bases (44). Alabama also has to contend with Shelbi Sunseri and Shemiah Sanchez, who have a combined 31 home runs, 99 RBIs, and 89 hits.
“It’s a strong lineup from top to bottom,” Murphy said. “They are winning games offensively. They are usually winning games with pitching. They lost two All-American pitchers last year so I guess they figured we better hit the ball, and they have done that all year long. That’s probably the best offense that we’ve seen from that coaching staff at LSU. It’s going to be a tough lineup to hold down.
“Our pitching staff has been awesome the whole season. Only four bad starts out of how many we played. They have held their own and done their job. The defense has really done their job. It just comes down to the law of averages and the hitters.”
Reach Edwin Stanton at email@example.com or 205-722-0226.