HOOVER, Ala. – It was apropos that the 2013 SEC Baseball Tournament championship game went into extra innings. Why should the final game be any different than the early days of the tournament?
Of the 17 games played in Hoover this week, four were extra-inning affairs, including Sunday’s 5-4 win by the LSU Tigers over the Vanderbilt Commodores to secure the SEC Championship.
LSU took advantage of mid-week Commodore pitching and jumped out to an early three-run lead in the second inning. Ty Ross, Jared Foster and Andrew Stevenson hit back-to-back-to-back singles after a Christian Ibarra walk which led to a 3-0 lead.
Vanderbilt answered in the bottom half of the second when Zander Wiel and Vince Conde drove in Connor Harrell and Conrad Gregor to get the Commodores to a 3-2 deficit.
LSU added a run in the fourth inning when Foster drove in Ibarra, who led the inning off with a double, with an RBI single.
LSU kept its 4-2 lead until the seventh inning when the Commodores tied the game with a Conde two-run single. After Conde tied the game for Vanderbilt, the Commodores loaded the bases with two outs Spencer Navin hit a ball hard into the gap between left and center field.
“I thought the game was actually in our favor,” said head coach Tim Corbin after his team tied the game in the seventh and loaded the bases. “I thought when we tied the game up we would end up winning.”
But Stevenson, the LSU center fielder, saved three runs by tracking down Navin’s deep drive. Tigers head coach Paul Mainieri said that’s exactly why Stevenson is his center fielder.
“He saved the game with that play in center field today,” said Mainieri. “Chris [Sciambra] started out the season as our starting center fielder but I felt Stevenson’s speed in the outfield, he could contribute to our team.”
Mainieri moved Sciambra to the bench but told him to stay upbeat and he’d find himself help out the team in big ways.
“I couldn’t have looked in a crystal ball and said it was going to be in the 11th inning at the championship game in Hoover,” said Mainieri. “But he was ready for it.”
After being held hitless for 6.2 innings by two Vanderbilt relievers, Sciambra was given the bat to pinch hit in the top of the 11th inning after Foster was hit by a pitch and stole second base. Sciambra hit a ball into center field and drove in Foster to give the Tigers a 5-4 lead, which help up as the final score.
The SEC title was LSU’s 10th, the most of any team in conference history.
Both the Tigers and Commodores will host Regionals in the NCAA Baseball Tournament that starts next week.