The Florida Gators entered Friday night’s game against the LSU Tigers with a nation best .986 fielding percentage, committing just 28 errors in 52 games. Two errors in the eighth, and three on the night sunk Florida on Friday night, dropping game one to LSU 5-4.
Making his first appearance since April 12 (vs. FSU), Nick Horvath took the mound in the eighth for the Gators (43-10, 18-9 SEC) in a tie game. The utility player earned the first out of the inning on a ground ball, but the speedy Cole Freeman reached on an error, the second of the inning, to get the LSU (38-16, 18-10) rally going. Freeman advanced to second on Antoine Duplantis’ single and scored two batters later when Kramer Robertson singled to left field.
Florida started junior left-hander A.J. Puk against the Tigers. Florida’s bats had only been able to muster four runs in Puk’s last four starts but gave the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft some early help. Jeremy Vasquez singled with one two outs in the second to bring up Dalton Guthrie. The sophomore second baseman dropped a bunt down in front of the plate to the third base side. LSU catcher Jordan Romero sprung out of his crouch, picked up the ball, turned and fired to first but his throw sailed down into the LSU bullpen. Vasquez rounded third and was able to score with nobody covering home, Guthrie trekking it all the way down to third base for a Little League triple.
Puk came back out in the second, walked one and hit a batter before getting out of the inning. Despite not allowing a run, Puk was visibly uncomfortable on the mound and needed a long visit from Kevin O’Sullivan to settle down. He returned to the mound in the bottom of the third, walking Freeman to start the inning before being pulled with what O’Sullivan called a “stomach issue.”
Dane Dunning relieved Puk, who threw just 38 pitches, but surrendered back-to-back singles, relinquishing the lead. Dunning cruised into the fifth inning before giving up another run on two hits, LSU taking its first lead of the game, 2-1.
Mike Rivera hit his ninth home run of the season (tied for the team lead with Pete Alonso) to start the sixth but LSU had an answer. Dunning induced a groundout and struck out Beau Jordan to start the frame. Greg Deichmann singled and scored on a Freeman double, and Freeman advanced to third on a throwing error, Florida’s first error of the game. O’Sullivan turned to Kirby Snead to face the left-handed Duplantis. Snead couldn’t get his man. Duplantis singled to shortstop, scoring Freeman and extending the Tiger lead to 4-2.
Jonathan India singled to right field with one out in the seventh. JJ Schwarz’s second strikeout of the night gave LSU two down. Buddy Reed drew a walk and Nelson Maldonado’s single to right field plated both India and Reed, tying the game at four before LSU’s big comeback in the eighth inning.
Hunter Newman came on to work a perfect ninth inning, striking out Schwarz to end the game and earn his sixth save of the season.
The Gators and Tigers will play a doubleheader tomorrow to make up for Thursday’s rain postponed game. O’Sullivan ruled out Logan Shore, A.J. Puk and Dane Dunning from pitching on Saturday, but said the rest of the staff would be available.
The teams will be back at Alex Box Stadium at 11 AM (noon eastern) and wil pick up in the bottom of the third, with a runner on second and one out in a 0-0 game.
Game two begins at 3:30 CT, Alex Faedo will start for Florida.