Five hours and seven minutes after A.J. Puk’s first fastball of the night was thrown, the longest game in SEC Tournament history ended with the LSU Tigers earning a 5-3 win over the Florida Gators in 14 innings.
A possum ran on to the turf at Alex Box Stadium in the seventh inning of a Saturday night game between LSU and Arkansas. The Razorbacks were leading before the marsupial caused a brief delay. LSU rallied back to win the game 10-9 in extra innings and the “Rally Possum” was born. The Tigers reeled off 11-straight wins after that game, with the only loss coming to Alex Faedo and the Florida Gators last Sunday. The legend and story of the “Rally Possum” has taken on a life of its own, and even a stuffed owl, a natural predator of the possum, couldn’t slow it down.
In Florida’s first at bat Jonathan India doubled down the left field line with one out and JJ Schwarz traded places with India, also doubling down the left field line. Buddy Reed extended the lead to 2-0 with a triple to left center. Mike Rivera and Nelson Maldonado walked to load the bases, but LSU starter Alex Lange worked out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts.
The starting pitchers traded jabs back and forth after Florida’s two-run first. Puk gave up a one-out single in the second but erased it with an inning-ending double play. Lange answered with a 1-2-3 inning of his own, a strike him out, throw him out batters interference ending the frame.
Puk would take the game into the eighth inning with the 2-0 lead intact. Antonio Duplantis ripped a double down the left field line with one out. Jake Fraley dropped a ball in front of Buddy Reed and Duplantis pulled up at third with a stop sign. Reed, not realizing the runner had stopped, fired through his cutoff man all the way to home, sending Fraley off to second. Mike Rivera’s throw sailed into center field, just Rivera’s third error of the season, bringing Duplantis home and sending Fraley to third.
That was it for Puk.
Shaun Anderson came into the game and Florida brought the infield in to try and cut off the lead runner. Kramer Robertson grounded a ball to third base, India fired home and Mike Rivera did a good job of applying the tag in time, but Fraley was called safe, tying the game. Robertson stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Bryce Jordan singled up the middle, giving LSU a 3-2 lead in the eighth.
Buddy Reed led off the bottom of the ninth lofting a ball into shallow left field. Brennan Breaux misplayed the ball, watching it hit off the heel of his glove and trickle away. The hit, originally ruled a foul ball was reviewed (this is the first year the SEC Tournament has instant replay) and overturned. Reed was awarded second base. Rivera moved Reed over with a sacrifice bunt and Deacon Liput singled into left field with two outs to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
Dane Dunning, who took a tough loss, entered the game in the 10th inning and retired the first 10 batters he faced. In fact, neither team would record another hit until the 12th inning. That didn’t stop Florida from loading the bases with no outs in the 11th after JJ Schwarz and Buddy Reed walked, Jesse Stallings made an ill-advised decision to try and get the lead runner at third when Rivera bunted, everyone safe. Nelson Maldonado struck out for the first out of the inning and Deacon Liput line into a double play at third base.
The score remained knotted at three into the 14th inning. Bryce Jordan reached first on a Dalton Guthrie throwing error, but was retired on Chris Reid’s fielder’s choice. With Dunning at 59 pitches Kevin O’Sullivan elected to go with the left-handed Kirby Snead against the left-handed hitting Breaux. Snead walked Breaux on five pitches and before Jordan Romero’s two-out, pinch-hit single broke the stalemate. Cole Freeman blooped a ball into left field to plate Breaux and the damage was done.
Ryan Larson walked to start the bottom half of the inning but three consecutive pop outs ended Florida’s chances at another comeback.
The Gators will send Logan Shore (10-0, 2.33 ERA) to the mound against Alabama, who will throw sophomore Jake Walters (5-4, 2.30 ERA) at 1 pm (EST) on Thursday afternoon.