HOOVER, Ala. - No. 1 Vanderbilt fell in a heartbreaker to No. 2 LSU 5-4 in 11 innings Sunday evening in the SEC Tournament championship game at the Hoover Met.
The Commodores (51-9) made it to the championship game for the third straight season and seventh time in 10 trips under head coach Tim Corbin. LSU (52-9) won its first SEC Tournament since 2010. In the first meeting of the season between the top two-ranked programs in the country, the game lived up to the hype.
The Tigers and Dores entered the 11th inning tied at 4-4 but LSU started a rally when Jared Foster was plunked by a Brian Miller pitch with one out. Foster then swiped second and came around to score on Chris Sciambra's pinch-hit single up the middle. Steven Rice recorded the final two outs to get the Commodores back in the dugout down a run. But LSU closer Chris Cotton wasted no time, retiring Vanderbilt in order to seal the tournament title for the Tigers.
LSU started the scoring in the top of the second after a single and a throwing error by Tony Kemp scored the game's first run. Andrew Stevenson then reached on an infield single to make it 2-0 Tigers, and a sacrifice fly from Sean McMullen gave the Tigers a three-run lead going to the bottom of the second.
Down three runs in the bottom of the second, the Commodores responded with two runs of their own. Connor Harrell led off the inning with a single, followed by a double from Conrad Gregor to bring up Zander Wiel. Wiel grounded out to second but the grounder allowed Harrell to score the Dores' first run. Vince Conde then drove in Gregor on a RBI-single to make it 3-2 in favor of LSU after two innings.
LSU's Jared Foster pushed the Tigers lead to 4-2 in the top of the fourth with a RBI-single. VU starting pitcher Philip Pfeifer exited with two outs and the bases loaded in the inning. Adam Ravenelle entered from the bullpen and recorded the final out without allowing any further damage.
Vanderbilt looked to take its first lead of the game in the bottom of the fifth with the bases loaded but failed to cash in. Conde drove a ball deep to left-center that would have unloaded the bases, but LSU center fielder Andrew Stevenson made an amazing catch on a dead sprint at the warning track to end the inning.
Two innings later, Conde delivered with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh. The Oviedo, Fla., native delivered a two-run single to right-center to tie the game, 4-4. LSU managed to get out of the inning without giving up the lead after Spencer Navin flew out to right and Wiel was doubled up at home trying to score.
Brian Miller (5-2) gave Vanderbilt 4.1 innings of great pitching before giving up the winning-run in the 11th. That was the only hit and run he allowed, while striking out four hitters in the loss. Pfeifer tossed 3.2 innings in the start. The left-hander allowed four runs on nine hits with three strikeouts. Ravenelle came in and delivered 2.1 innings of excellent relief with no runs and no hits. Cotton (4-1) picked up the win for LSU with 2.2 innings of no-hit relief.
The Commodores finished with 11 hits and left a season-high 14 men on base in the game. Harrell, Gregor, Conde and Xavier Turner had multi-hit games for Vandy. Conde went 3-for-5 at the plate with a game-high three RBI. Kemp saw his 12-game hitting streak snapped after going 0-for-4 with two walks. Foster and Stevenson led the Tigers with two hits each.
Vanderbilt has been awarded one of 16 NCAA Regional sites and will host a Regional for the second time in three years beginning Friday. The Commodores will host a watch party for the NCAA Selection Show tomorrow as the entire 64-team field is announced on ESPNU at 11 a.m. The Holiday Inn Vanderbilt is set to host the watch party with fans encouraged to attend.