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LSU starting pitcher Nich Bush (29) is congratulated by team mates after pitching out of a jam in the fifth inning of LSU's 7-3 win over Alabama Sunday in LSU's Alex Box stadium.

Sunday's series finale against Alabama felt like an elimination game to LSU coach Paul Mainieri. 

It was not only a series victory hanging in the balance, the coach felt LSU was playing for its NCAA tournament life. A loss to the Southeastern Conference's last place team would have, in all likelihood, nixed LSU's ability to earn an at-large bid. 

He handed the ball to Nick Bush, and the sophomore left-hander delivered in a crucial 7-3 win. 

"We owe the season to Bush — really," Mainieri said. "What he did today for us saved our season. That is not overstating it.

"I don’t know what the end result of our season is going to be, but had Bush not stepped up on this day and pitched like he did, we could be putting the bats away awfully early this year."

Video by Mike Gegenheimer, Special to The Advocate. Can't see video below? Click here.

Bush fired six strong innings to guide LSU to the win in a game he did not know he was going to start until late Saturday night. 

The original plan was for AJ Labas to start Sunday's rubber match, but LSU had to scratch that notion when Labas experienced shoulder soreness after a throwing drill Saturday. The soreness had cropped up earlier in the week and returned at the worst possible time. 

Enter Bush, who had not pitched since a couple dreadful appearances against Arkansas, when he allowed five runs on seven hits in two appearances. When that happened last week, Mainieri told him he would still pitch some vital innings for LSU, and that premonition came true Sunday. 

Bush's six innings marked a career high. He neutralized the Crimson Tide's patience by pounding the strike zone. 

"They were definitely a team that didn’t chase much, I figured that out early," Bush said. "... I knew I had to compete my butt off."

It was the first time since the 2003 season that LSU won each of its Southeastern Conference home series. 

A night after LSU issued 10 walks, Bush cruised for much of his outing by pitching to contact. He only struck out two, but Alabama rarely squared up his pitches. 

The Tide scored two runs  one with the help of an LSU error, the other when Keith Holcombe barreled up a Bush pitch for a solo home run in the sixth. 

LSU's lineup — particularly freshman designated hitter Daniel Cabrera — had Bush's back. 

Cabrera was not in the starting lineup Sunday, yielding his designated hitter spot to Bryce Jordan, who was recognized with his twin brother Beau as part of LSU's senior day festivities. 

Though he did not enter until the third inning, the freshman with the sweet left-handed stroke made his presence known. 

He drilled an opposite field two-run home run with two outs in the fifth, his seventh homer of the season, to extend LSU's lead to three runs. He belted a slider on the outer half of the plate from Alabama left-hander Dylan Duarte, a pitch Cabrera anticipated.

"I didn’t think he was going to throw in, and if he did I was going to try to foul it off," Cabrera said. "I was looking for something middle-away. Lefty-lefty, not many lefties can pound in."

The bases were loaded when he returned to the plate in the sixth, and this time he banged a double over the head of Alabama right fielder Joe Breaux to score two more runs. 

Cabrera has 13 RBIs in his past seven games. 

Devin Fontenot and Todd Peterson combined to allow one run over the final three innings to close the win.

With one week remaining, LSU is mathematically still in the hunt for a division title, though that goal is probably unrealistic. The Tigers would have to sweep Auburn on the road and hope Arkansas and Ole Miss get swept. 

The important thing, though, is that LSU's NCAA tournament hopes are very much alive thanks to Bush.  

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.