Alabama vs LSU SEC Baseball Tournament 2013: Tide's Keys to Avoiding Elimination

Mike Hoag@MikeHoagJrCorrespondent IIMay 24, 2013

Ryan Eades will have the mound for LSU against Alabama on May 24.
Ryan Eades will have the mound for LSU against Alabama on May 24.Crystal Logiudice-USA TODAY Sports

The LSU Tigers dominated the Alabama Crimson Tide during their first matchup at the 2013 SEC Baseball Tournament. In order to ward off an embarrassing early elimination, the Tide must defy odds by exacting revenge on the highly touted Tigers.

Changes to the tournament’s makeup increased the field to 12 teams in 2013. As a result, Friday is the final day of double-elimination play before the weekend’s single-elimination semifinals.

Alabama avoided a quick exit by escaping past No. 6 Ole Miss in another elimination game on Day 3 of the tourney. But Friday’s showdown against the Tigers has a bit of a different feel to it. No. 3 seed Arkansas dealt LSU a late loss on Thursday, and now it too has been put on the brink.

Not many fans came out to see Alabama’s extra-innings tournament-saving thriller, despite the game’s close venue to home. AP’s Jay Reeves gave us a look at the early-morning Thursday crowd (via Twitter):

Jay Reeves @Jay_Reeves

Seats still available for Alabama-Ole Miss at #SEC tourney, but you have to like baseball at 9:30 in the morning. http://t.co/JyU5ObZVmq

Support or no support, the Tide forced this rematch with the Tigers, and they have a shot to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive.

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In order to get it done at Hoover Met Stadium on Friday afternoon, Alabama must accomplish the following.

Get to the Tigers’ Bullpen

LSU’s starting pitching has been lights-out. The Tigers' staff shut out the Crimson Tide on Wednesday and held Arkansas to just one run through seven innings during Thursday night’s contest. On the season, the group has compiled the fourth-best ERA in NCAA Division I college baseball.

Alabama isn’t a world beater at the plate, but the Tide proved they can produce runs by putting up seven against Ole Miss in Thursday night’s extra-innings win.

That outburst may be inspiring, but they have struggled getting runners across the plate. The Crimson Tide scored just 303 runs this season, tying them for 95th in the nation with Utah Valley.

Minimize Errors

One of the biggest positives for the Crimson Tide is their nearly perfect fielding percentage. In 58 games this season, they have recorded a 97.6 percent mark in that category and have committed just 56 errors.

For as good as the Tide have been, though, LSU has been better. The Tigers ranked second in the nation with a near flawless 98.1 percent mark.

The Crimson Tide had a slip-up or two against Ole Miss, but they were able to overcome them and win in extra innings. Their margin of error is much lower against the solid-pitching Tigers.

Win the Starting Pitching Battle

Alabama and LSU will send two right-handers to the mound in this critical tournament matchup.

According to Rick O’Brien of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mike Oczypok will be the starting pitcher for the Crimson Tide in this huge game (via Twitter):

Rick O'Brien @ozoneinq

RHP Mike Mike Oczypok (Spring-Ford, 2011) gets the start today for Alabama vs. LSU in an SEC elimination-round game. http://t.co/68GOIHzu1u

Oczypok is a freshman walk-on who has been thrust into a huge spotlight for this ballgame. He has appeared in 10 games, including three starts. His record is 4-1, and he boasts a serviceable 3.74 ERA.

His performance isn't too bad considering the struggles of his club this season. The biggest question mark that remains is how he will handle the pressure of such a big game.

NOLA News, an update account from NOLA.com and the Times-Picayune, provided us with LSU’s starter (via Twitter):

NOLA.com @NOLAnews

LSU coach Paul Mainieri says junior RH Ryan Eades will start against Alabama http://t.co/K5mVBQyFwg

Ryan Eades is a junior hurler who was drafted in 2010 by the Colorado Rockies. On a good day, Eades has the potential to be a solid MLB rotation guy, but he has had his share of bad days too.

On paper, Eades' 8-1 record and 2.70 ERA are impressive. Add in his 71 strikeouts to 26 walks, and there is a lot to be concerned about for the Crimson Tide.

But they might be catching him at the perfect time. Eades is coming off of a rough six-week stretch. His last outing saw him surrender five runs and get ousted after four innings of work.

The last time Alabama saw Eades, it rocked him for five runs before eventually losing in 16 innings.

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