LSU clinches league title

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Pinch hitter Jackson Slaid delivered a two-out RBI single in the top of the 10th inning for the go-ahead run Saturday as fourth-ranked LSU posted a 3-2 victory against top-ranked South Carolina to claim the 2012 Southeastern Conference championship.

LSU concluded the regular season with a 42-14 overall mark, including a 19-11 record in SEC play. The Tigers won the title outright after Kentucky fell to Mississippi State, 11-3, Saturday in Starkville, Miss.

The SEC title for LSU is a league-best 15th in school history and the Tigers’ second conference championship in four seasons.

LSU will begin play Wednesday in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. against the lowest seed winner out of games between No. 4 Kentucky and No. 9 Ole Miss and No. 6 Arkansas and No. 7 seed Mississippi.

“What a resilient effort by our players; they’ve certainly earned the right to call themselves SEC champions,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said in a university news release. “This team has overcome adversity all season and overachieved in a lot of ways. I’m extremely proud to be their coach — they’re young men of great character who represent our university the right way. To win the SEC title in this environment against the two-time defending national champions is a tremendous achievement.”

With the game tied at 1 in the top of the 10th, LSU designated hitter Jordy Snikeris led off with a walk from South Carolina reliever Evan Beal and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by third baseman Tyler Hanover.

Second baseman JaCoby Jones lined out to second base, and Beal intentionally walked shortstop Austin Nola, setting the stage Slaid, who was pinch hitting for centerfielder Arby Fields.

Slaid, facing reliever Tyler Webb, punched a 3-2 pitch into right field to score Snikeris with the go-ahead run. First baseman Mason Katz then lined a Webb pitch into center field to score Nola and give the Tigers a 3-1 lead.

South Carolina Evan Marzilli doubled off LSU closer Nick Goody to lead off the bottom of the 10th, and rightfielder Adam Matthews singled to put runners at the corners.

First baseman Christian Walker lined a sacrifice fly to reduce the Tigers’ lead to 3-2, but Goody, who earned his 10th save, retired third baseman LB Dantzler on a fly ball to right and catcher Grayson Greiner on a pop out to first to end the game.

LSU reliever Chris Cotton (6-0) earned the victory as he fired three scoreless, no-hit innings. He surrendered one walk and struckout four. LSU starter Ryan Eades limited the Gamecocks (39-15, 18-11) to one run on seven hits in five and one-third innings with one walk and six strikeouts.

Beal (3-4) was charged with the loss as he surrendered two runs on no hits in two and two-thirds innings with two walks and one strikeout.

Fields doubled with one out in the first inning, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on a groundout by Katz to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

South Carolina tied the game in the third as Marzilli tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Matthews.

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