Deacon Liput put his right foot on third base and put his head down waiting for Craig Bell to tell him when to run. JJ Schwarz’s (0-3) fly ball was held up by the wind but deep enough to plate Liput from third, giving the Florida Gators (15-8, 1-3 SEC) a 1-0 lead over LSU (17-6, 3-1 SEC)that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Dozens of MLB scouts flocked to Gainesville on Saturday night with a blockbuster pitching matchup between two projected first round picks in Alex Faedo (4-1) and Alex Lange (3-2). The pair pitched with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team over the summer where they became close. The two went toe-to-toe Friday night.
Faedo gave up a single in each of the first three innings but threw zeroes on the board. Lange retired the first eight batters he faced before Nick Horvath singled back up the middle.
“I thought Alex pitched great, both Alex’s,” Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “You could kind of sense it was going to be a low scoring game. We got to about the fourth inning and you kind of sensed it.”
LSU showed the signs of that first.
Nelson Maldonado singled up the middle and Mike Rivera followed that up with a single into left. O’Sullivan sent shortstop Christian Hicks up to the plate to sacrifice both runners over. Hicks laid the bunt down the third base line but freshman Josh Smith’s throw was low, loading the bases with no outs. LSU manager Paul Mainieri moved his infield in.
Lange bore down striking out Ryan Larson and Nick Horvath. With two outs he got Dalton Guthrie to softly line out to second. It was the second time in as many weekends that the Gators had loaded the bases with no outs and failed to produce a single run.
“Bases loaded, nobody out, we have a senior up and then a junior. They brought the infield in with nobody out in the fifth that kind of shows you what they thought of our Alex,” said O’Sullivan. “Obviously it was going to be a low scoring game. We gotta put the ball in play.”
The momentum had swung in LSU’s favor and they were sending the top of the lineup to face Faedo in the sixth.
Kramer Robertson singled to start the inning and moved to second after a Cole Freeman sacrifice bunt. Antoine Duplantis grounded out to second, advancing Robertson to third. That brought Greg Deichmann, the SEC home run leader (8), to the plate. Deichmann worked the count to 2-2 but Faedo got him to roll over a ball to Liput at second. Faedo pumped his fist, turned around shouting at his dugout.
Florida put a run on the board in the sixth inning and sent Faedo back out to the mound in the seventh. His pitch count was rising but he was determined to finish the frame.
“Sully challenged me a little bit and he wanted a good outing,” Faedo said. “I can’t give up those bad outings anymore to start series off. It was a nice one out there, putting up a lot of zeroes and getting the W.”
Faedo surrendered two singles but got out of the inning with his seventh zero of the game before O’Sullivan turned the game over to the bullpen in the eighth.
Michael Byrne got Robertson to pop out before he walked Freeman. With three lefties due up in the LSU lineup O’Sullivan turned to freshman left-hander Andrew Baker. The freshman struck out both batters he faced walking off the mound to the roar of 4,485 fans at McKethan Stadium.
The ninth was all Tyler Dyson’s. the freshman, who didn’t start pitching until his senior year of high school, has earned the closer role and O’Sullivan didn’t think twice about sending him into the ninth.
“We’ve kind of established since last Tuesday against Florida State, we brought Tyler in to a 1-0 game, Baker same scenario was throwing the ball good (against FSU),” O’Sullivan said. “We need a guy at the back end and he’s got the stuff to do it. You kind of live and die with it.”
They lived on Saturday.
Dyson walked Smith to start the ninth and let him advance on a wild pitch. The freshman then struck out the next three batters he faced to earn his second career save.
Florida and LSU will play on Saturday at 3 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Brady Singer will face Jared Poché.