On a cool, damp night in Baton Rouge, the Gators not only hung around with the No. 3 team in the country, they matched the Tigers step-for-step throughout the night. They just couldn’t get one more timely hit when it mattered late in the game.
The Gators didn’t waste time, getting on the board first. With one out in the third inning, Cody Dent and Richie Martin had back-to-back bunt base hits to give the Gators runners on first and second with just one out. The next batter, Casey Turgeon, drew a walk and Florida had the bases loaded with Taylor Gushue’s hot bat at the plate.
Gushue grounded a ball to sophomore LSU stating pitcher, Cody Glenn. Glenn fielded the ball cleanly and threw to home for the force out but the Tigers couldn’t execute the inning-ending double play, as Mason Katz couldn’t come up with Ty Ross’ throw. Martin came around to score on the error and just like that Florida had landed the first punch.
However, it didn’t take long for the Tigers to counter-punch.
Jonathan Crawford started the inning with eight straight balls to put Sean McMullen and Mark Laird on base. Crawford settled down, getting a strike out and a pop out to center before facing Katz. Katz laced a Crawford curveball past Josh Tobias at third base that scored McMullen from second. It was Katz’s SEC-leading 63rd RBI of the season.
Seemingly as soon as the Gators took the lead they had given it away.
After the Gators went down 1-2-3 in the top of the fourth, Crawford quickly gave up a leadoff single to Christian Ibarra. Gushue was able to catch Ibarra trying to steal second, so no harm no foul for Crawford.
Crawford made quick work of Ross before JaCoby Jones strode up to the plate. At 6’3”, 200-pounds, Jones doesn’t look imposing as he walks up to the box. He’s a lanky looking player who you would think is more of a contact hitter just by looking at him. Jones worked the count full before hitting an absolute moon shot over the wall and into the left field bleachers, giving his team a 2-1 lead.
After allowing one unearned run in the third inning, Glenn settled down. How much did he settle down, you ask? He retired the next 12 Gators he faced, that’s how much.
The score remained 2-1 until the top of the seventh. Zack Powers and Vickash Ramjit grounded out to first and second respectively to begin the inning. Tobias laced a ball into left field for a two-out single and due to a great jump, was able to score from first on Harrison Bader’s 2-out double. Bader was able to advance to third on the throw home but was left on base after a Cody Dent strikeout.
With the score now knotted up at two, Ryan Harris got the Tigers to go 1-2-3 in the bottom half of the inning and momentum was in favor of the Gators.
Martin started the inning off with a single to right field. He then spent the next 45 minutes (that’s a slight exaggeration) diving back to first as LSU pitcher Joey Bourgeois tried to keep Martin honest at first. Throwing over might have affected the batters more than Martin. Turgeon flied out to center and Gushue struck out before Martin eventually stole second with what looked to be two pounds of dirt on his once white jersey. Shafer drew a two-out walk before Powers grounded out to first, ending the threat.
Alex Bregman kicked things off with an infield single, followed by another Katz single. Johnny Magliozzi came on to pitch for Harris and promptly threw a wild pitch. With runners on second and third with no-outs, Magliozzi was able to settle down getting Raph Rhymes to pop up to Turgeon at second.
The Gators decided to intentionally walk Ibarra, setting up a force at home and a double play opportunity. However, Ross was able to get just enough of a Magliozzi fastball as he lofted a sac-fly to Martin in center field. LSU took a one run lead into the ninth.
The Tigers then left the fate of the game in the hands of their closer, Chris Cotton. Cotton took just eight pitches to retire Ramjit, Tobias and Bader to end the game.
The Gators will now turn their attention to Friday night. Kevin O’Sullivan will send Bobby Poyner (2-1 4.22) to the mound to face off against Aaron Nola (8-0 2.14). First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST.