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Rapid Reaction: LSU beats SC, wins SEC

5/19/2012

For the first time since 2003, LSU is outright SEC baseball champion thanks to a Tigers win and an unlikely chain of events around the league Saturday.

Most important for the Tigers was a 3-2 win at South Carolina sparked by consecutive two-out, RBI singles by Jackson Slaid and Mason Katz off reliever Tyler Webb in the 10th inning.

To win the league outright, LSU (42-14, 19-11) still needed an unlikely scenario - losses later in the day by No. 3 Florida and No. 5 Kentucky against unranked opponents.

That's exactly what happened. After LSU celebrated its victory, Auburn completed a win over Florida and Mississippi State dumped Kentucky, allowing LSU's celebration to have extra significance. Both Florida and Kentucky finished 18-12 in the SEC.

No. 2 South Carolina (39-15, 18-11) lost a chance to win the outright conference title. The Gamecocks played one less game than the other conference contenders because of a game last weekend at Georgia that was cancelled because of rain. A win over LSU would have clinched the outright title for USC even with Kentucky and Florida wins.

The win also moved No. 9 LSU, which won two of three games in the season-ended series at South Carolina, into a spot where it will likely be a national seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. LSU prevailed in a tight SEC race that included 12 one-run wins for the Tigers.

Overview: LSU, which had just five hits in the first nine innings, got two clutch hits in the 10th.

With the score tied 1-1, USC reliever Evan Beal walked Jordy Snikeris on four pitches to start the 10th. After Tyler Hanover landed a sacrifice bunt and JaCoby Jones lined out to second base, Beal (3-4) intentionally walked Aaron Nola before giving in to Webb.

Slaid pinch-hit for Arby Fields and greeted Webb by singling to right field to score Snikeris. Katz then singled up the middle, scoring Nola for a 3-1 LSU lead.

LSU closer Nick Goody allowed a run in the bottom of the inning on back-to-back hits to start the inning. Evan Marzilli doubled to lead off the inning then went to third on a single by Adam Matthews. But Goody then recorded three straight fly ball outs - the first a sacrifice fly by Christian Walker that plated Marzilli - to get his 10th save.

Turning Point: For LSU, it was a solid, but sometimes shaky start from Ryan Eades, who had struggled for the last month. Eades kept South Carolina at bay for 5 1/3 innings, scattering seven hits and allowing just one run while striking out six.

It was not the most efficient performance, but Eades kept it a low-scoring game.

Reliever Chris Cotton (6-0) pitched three no-hit, shutout innings behind Eades and Brent Bonvillain, who got the Tigers out of a sixth-inning jam, for the win.

Key Statistics: Katz went 2-for-5 and drove in two of LSU's three runs. He plated LSU's first run with a first-inning ground out against starting pitcher Colby Holmes. ... Holmes also gave the Gamecocks a quality start, allowing four hits and an unearned run in 6 2/3 innings. The first inning run was unearned because it was aided by a passed ball that allowed Arby Fields to move from second base to third, putting him in position to score on Katz' ground out. ... Marzilli also tripled and scored and went 2-for-5 with both South Carolina runs. ... Raph Rhymes went 0-for-4 and finished the regular season batting .469. He was batting .500 with two weeks left in SEC play.