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LSU downs Crimson Tide 4-3 for SEC crown

HOOVER — LSU stopped a late rally by Alabama and claimed the Southeastern Conference title with a 4-3 victory Sunday.

With the win LSU became the first team in SEC history to win three consecutive titles, the first No. 8 seed to win the championship and handed the Crimson Tide its first ever loss in the championship game.

LSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the end of the third inning, but Alabama got on the scoreboard when Ross Wilson singled to drive in Josh Rutledge.

The Crimson Tide reduced the deficit to 3-2 in the seventh inning with an RBI single by Andrew Miller.

Jake Smith’s two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning tied the game for Alabama. Following Smith’s hit the Crimson Tide had a pair of runners on base, but Jon Kelton flied out to end the threat.

Alabama retired the LSU batters in the top of the ninth, but was forced to wait before batting as heavy rain forced a rain delay. LSU forced extra innings when the Crimson Tide was unable to get any runners on base in the bottom of the ninth.

Wilson was able to reach third base in the 10th inning for Alabama, but Smith flied out to end the inning and strand Wilson 90 feet away from the winning run.

The Tigers capitalized on the opportunity when Tyler Hanover drove in a run for LSU in the 11th. Pitcher Anthony Ranaudo retired Alabama in order during the bottom half of the inning to earn the win. He pitched three innings, striking out five and walking two.

Alabama’s Taylor Dugas was 0-for-5 in the game, which ended a streak of 47 games in which he had reached base safely.

“Ranaudo looked like he did when we played him last time,” Dugas said. “He was really good tonight.”

Wilson and Andrew Miller had two hits and one RBI each to lead the Crimson Tide while Smith had one hit and one RBI.

Smith took the loss for Alabama. He pitched three innings, giving up three hits and allowing one run.

Smith, catcher Brock Bennett and pitcher Jimmy Nelson were all named to the All-Tournament Team.

With the win LSU has now won 13 of its last 14 SEC Tournament games, including its last nine, which is an SEC record.

Tigers, Tide NCAA bound

Auburn and Alabama are among the eight Southeastern Conference baseball teams selected for the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

The eight SEC teams are tied with the Pacific-10 and the Atlantic Coast Conference for most in the 64-team field.

Four SEC schools earned right to host Regional Tournaments. Florida, the No. 3 seed nationally, Auburn, Arkansas and South Carolina will host tournaments this week.

Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt will hit the road for Regional Tournament games.

The Auburn Regional will feature the Tigers (40-19) along with No. 2 seed Clemson (38-21), third seed Southern Mississippi (35-22) and fourth seed Jacksonville State (32-24).

Auburn will play Jacksonville State at 6 p.m. Friday.

Alabama (37-22), which is the No. 2 seed in the Atlanta Regional, will begin its quest for an NCAA title against No. 3 seed Elon (38-22) at 2 p.m. Friday.

Also playing in the Atlanta Regional are host Georgia Tech (45-13) — the No. 8 seed nationally — and Mercer (37-22).

Should Auburn and Alabama win their Regional Tournaments, the teams would meet in the Super Regional to play for a berth in the College World Series.