HOOVER, Ala. — Conner Hale didn’t know how long he had just played baseball.
But he knew it was long. Real, real long.
“I have no idea,” LSU’s third baseman said. “I didn’t know where we were in the game.”
Hale had a two-run triple to break a tied game, freshman Doug Norman closed the game by pitching three innings of scoreless ball and the Tigers rallied, survived and then hung on to beat Alabama 8-5 in a 16-inning marathon on Thursday night at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
LSU (25-5, 6-4 Southeastern Conference) ended a two-week skid in series-opening games, beating the Crimson Tide (15-13, 4-6) in a game that started at 7 p.m. and ended after 12:30 a.m.
It was tied for the longest game in LSU history, and the Tigers blew – get this – three saves.
“They just showed such resiliency,” coach Paul Mainieri said of his squad. “There’s so many times they could have hung their heads and said, ‘Tonight’s not our night. They kept battling and nobody gave up.
“Doesn’t seem like it,” the coach said, “but I really am speechless.”
They finally hung on to a lead in the 16th. Mainieri’s team scored three in the top of the inning, and Norman stranded two runners in the bottom of the frame by inducing a groundout to second – a game-ending play and relief for a pair of exahausted teams that matched blows for nearly six hours.
Was it crazy? It was.
The Tigers had to rally from a game-long 1-0 deficit in the ninth with a four-hit, two-run inning.
LSU then blew three saves — 2-1 in the ninth, 4-2 in the 11th and 5-4 in the 13th. Alabama answered each time to tie, including plating the tying run on a Parker Bugg balk in the 11th and doing something no one else has this season — getting a run, though unearned, off Hunter Newman in the 13th.
“It’s crazy,” Hale said. “Longest game I’ve been a part of.”
LSU has now played in four 16-inning games in its history – the last coming against Alabama in 2013.
“That was crazy,” Jared Poche said. “Longest game of my life. Craziest things. Never seen blowing three saves and still getting the win.”
There were web gems, too. Alabama outfielders stole two home runs from the Tigers with against-the-wall catches, and they caught another pair on the warning track in a game that entered the ninth having lasted less than two hours.
A heated pitching duel between two Louisiana natives — LSU’s Poche of Lutcher and Bama’s Taylor Guilbeau of Zachary — turned into 5-hour, 25-minute, seesaw affair that saw the Tigers’ bullpen falter but strand the winning run a host of times.
Alabama left nine runners on base in the seven innings of extra-ball, leaving the winning run on third base twice.
“It’s one thing to let them tie it, another not to lose the game in a walk-off fashion,” Mainieri said. “We earned the last out – three blown saves later.”
The Tigers got a game-saving double play catch in the 14th inning from freshman Beau Jordan, making his first career SEC start. Running with his back to home plate, Jordan made leaping catch, then fired to relay man Bregman, who zipped it to Chris Chinea at first.
“Thought we were going to have to go out for a double cut and then next thing I know he slide catches and makes an unbelievable play,” Bregman said.
Mobile/tablet users: Click here to see video of Bregman's post-game interview.
“Once he caught it, (second baseman Jared) Foster told me, ‘Throw it to first, throw it to first,’” he said. “I caught the ball, turned and threw it as hard as I could across the diamond. Hit Chinea in the chest.”
The play dragged the game on far enough that officials had to cancel the postgame fireworks, and it had former LSU star Ben McDonald tweeting “Wow! What a catch and relay throw #morebonusbaseball.”
Oh, there was more all right. Two innings.
“It’s just the will to win,” Bregman said. “Don’t think I’ve ever seen that before in a game (three blow saves and winning). It’s the will to win. Everybody on this team wanted to get the job done and find a way to win this baseball game whether it was nine innings or 20.”
Less than half of the estimated 3,500 that filed into the Met lasted to the very end — most covered in purple-and-gold at the temporary home for the Tide. Bama’s on-campus stadium is undergoing renovations this season.
For LSU and coach Paul Mainieri, they won another game in this expansive ballpark in the Birmingham suburb — a venue that hosts the SEC tournament every year. Mainieri is now 23-4 in the park, and LSU has won five of the last seven tournament titles.
In the 16th, LSU got to reliever Mitch Greer.
Foster, who played perfect at second base, walked to start the inning and stole second. Mark Laird bunted him to third before Alabama intentionally walked Alex Bregman to bring on cleanup hitter Hale. He fired his two-run line drive to left field, and Mike Papierski followed with a sacrifice fly.
Hale’s shot came after he began the 13th inning by committing an error. That run scored to prolong a wild game that just wouldn’t end.
“Coach told me to try to put a good barrel on the ball,” Hale said. “I was trying to get a pitch to drive and I was able to do that.”
LSU had a 5-4 lead in the 13th before Hale booted a hard grounder hit at him. Newman then gave up back-to-back singles. Georgie Salem scored on the last of those to tie it before pitcher Alden Cartwright entered.
Cartwright walked his first batter to load the bases before getting back-to-back strikeouts. He leaped off the mound, pumping his fist as the Tide left three runners stranded.
Jordan gave the Tigers that 5-4 lead with an RBI double down the right field line. Chris Chinea hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the 11th for a 4-2 lead, a soaring shot that bounced off of the top of the 402-foot wall near dead center field.
Alabama tied the game in a wacky top half of the 11th that included two walks, a hit batter and a balk that scored the tying run to push the game into the 12th. Reliever Zac Person, who had pitched a perfect ninth and 10th, crumbled in the 11th. The lefty hit the first batter of the inning, allowed a single and walked No. 3 hole hitter Mikey White to fill the bases with one out before Parker Bugg’s struggles.
Bugg walked in a run and then umpires called him for a bases-loaded balk to score the tying run before he got out of the inning.
The Crimson Tide left the winning run on third base in the 11th and in the 13th. UA stranded a guy at second in the 12th and the 16th, too, as LSU’s relief pitching stepped up in a tie-game situation.
The Tigers’ six relievers walked six, hit two and allowed 10 hits and five runs.
“I told Alex Lange I’m going to give him the ball tomorrow (and) just give it back to me when the game’s over,” the coach said of the SEC’s leader in ERA.
LSU rallied in the ninth inning, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead and ruining a three-hit, eight inning outing for Guilbeau, a Louisiana native. Bregman led off the ninth with a double, Hale singled and Kade Scivicque brought the tying run home with a single to right.
Andrew Stevenson, who had a three-hit day, gave LSU the lead with a sacrifice fly off of reliever Ray Castillo. Before that, Jesse Stallings blew just his second save opportunity of the season in the top of the ninth. Alabama center fielder Georgie Salem hit a leadoff triple — a deep shot that banged off the right field wall — and he scored on Mikey White’s sac fly to tie the game. Stallings entered the game 11 of 12 on save chances.
Poché pitched a gem. He allowed just six base runners through his eight innings, and he retired eight straight starting with the last batter in the fifth. He retired the side twice, and struck out six, walking just one.
Outside of a first-inning home run from Mikey White, Alabama went seven straight innings without getting a man to second base. Poché even caught a man stealing second in the fourth, shaking off that solo shot allowed in the opening frame.
He was the afterthought on this night, though.
“Not sure you can put it into words,” Mainieri said. “Crazy.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.