In a game that matched the longest in the 120-year history of LSU baseball, the second-ranked Tigers plated three runs in the bottom of the 16th inning and clinched their weekend series with the Alabama Crimson Tide by a score of 11-8 early Sunday morning in Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
LSU (37-3, 15-2 SEC) moved into a tie for first place in the overall Southeastern Conference standings following Vanderbilt's split with Georgia on Saturday. The Tigers' only other times of playing a 16-inning marathon occurred on March 22, 1996 at Florida and on April 10, 1972 against South Alabama. It also tied the longest game in Alabama history as the Tide dropped to 23-18, 8-9 in SEC play and 0-3 in extra-inning contests this season.
"It's almost hard to put into words what we just went through," said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. "There were just so many peaks and valleys during the course of this game. I think it's more stressful for the visiting team. There are things I saw today that I haven't seen in 30 years. It was exhausting. We certainly made a memory. This is a game that these guys on this team will never forget."
After both teams failed to score for six consecutive innings entering the 16th frame, LSU put together a two-out rally when it counted most. After Raph Rhymes and Mason Katz were retired, Christian Ibarra drew a two-out walk. Tyler Moore, pinch-hitting for Andrew Stevenson, then lined a double down the left field line to put runners at second and third against Tide reliever Mike Oczypok.
With JaCoby Jones at the plate, Oczykpok uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Ibarra to score from third and finally break the tie. Jones and Ty Ross followed with clutch two-out RBI singles in the 16th.
Jones, Alex Bregman and Ibarra each accounted for three hits on the evening. After falling behind 3-0 entering the third inning, LSU combined for seven runs over the next two frames highlighted by a pair of three-run home runs deep over the left field wall from Bregman in the third and Ross in the fourth.
Tiger starter Ryan Eades was given a 7-3 advantage to work with but the Tide was able to cut it to 7-5 before he exited after the fourth inning. Eades allowed five runs on eight hits while walking none and striking out three.
Closer Chris Cotton, who entered the contest with a 1.16 ERA, took an 8-5 lead into the bottom of the ninth before the Tide staged an improbable rally. Third baseman Kenny Roberts stepped to the plate with two runners on, including one that reached on a Jones fielding error at second. Roberts then blasted his second homer of the season, a three-run shot over the left field wall that tied the contest at eight apiece.
Right-handed junior Nate Fury was the fifth LSU pitcher of the night as he relieved Cotton in the 11th inning. Fury delivered the best outing of his career, going a career-high four innings and holding the Tide to two hits and no runs.
"I know Cotton gave up the lead but he pitched the 10th and kept them from scoring," said Mainieri. "How about the job Nate Fury did for four innings when any inning they could have left us on the field."
The Tigers had their best scoring threat in the 14th when Alabama walked three consecutive batters – Katz, Ibarra and Stevenson – to start the frame. Jones nearly grounded a hit through the left side but Tide shortstop Mikey White made a terrific diving play, threw home for the out and then allowed catcher Brett Booth to fire to third for a double play.
LSU was unable to convert on the bases loaded, no-out threat on another great diving defensive play on Ross' groundball with two outs.
Kurt McCune (3-0) worked the final two innings and picked up the win, allowing no runs and one hit while striking out two. The clock struck midnight at Sewell-Thomas Stadium when he got the first two outs of the 16th quickly. Kyle Overstreet's fielder's choice groundout to Alex Bregman ended it at 12:01 a.m., capping a game that lasted four hours and 55 minutes.
Oczypok (3-1) was saddled with the loss, allowing three runs on three hits in 2.2 innings pitched.
LSU goes for the series sweep at 1 p.m. CT Sunday when sophomore left-hander Cody Glenn (5-1, 3.47 ERA) takes the mound against Tide sophomore right-hander Spencer Turnbull (4-1, 2.30 ERA).