Florida baseball completes first-ever sweep at LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. — No. 1 Florida (18-2/3-0 SEC) overcame a 3-0 deficit with seven unanswered runs to complete a sweep of No. 5 LSU (16-4/0-3 SEC), 7-3, on Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium. The Gators’ first sweep of the Tigers in Baton Rouge in school history marked the first time since 2006 against South Carolina that the Bayou Bengals had dropped all three contests at home to an SEC foe.

UF’s eighth win in a row matches the longest winning streak in head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s four-year tenure and equals the Gators’ most victories through 20 games in program history, as the 1952 team started 18-1-1. Florida has now swept all five of its weekend series (USF, Boston College, No. 24 Miami (Fla.), Rhode Island and No. 5 LSU) and improved to 7-1 against top-25 opponents and 4-1 versus top-five foes this season. The three-game series established Alex Box Stadium records for total attendance (28,215) and the number of tickets sold (34,562).

Making his first appearance on the mound in league action, sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) (1-0) fired 4.1 scoreless innings and gave up two hits to collect his first collegiate win. In his SEC debut, freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) permitted six hits and three runs (two earned) over 4.1 innings. Trailing 3-0, the Gators used a five-run fourth to seize the lead and tacked on solo homers by senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) (2-for-4) in the sixth and junior Jeff Moyer (Winter Garden, Fla.) (3-for-3, career-high three RBI) in the ninth to finalize the Orange and Blue’s second-straight regular-season sweep of the Tigers.

The Tigers plated two runs on three hits in the second inning off Whitson to take a 2-0 lead. Junior Austin Nola led off with a single through the left side and Whitson had sophomore Mason Katz pop-up a bunt attempt to sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.). The righty issued a four-pitch walk to junior Grant Dozar for a pair of runners aboard and freshman Ty Ross (2-for-4) loaded the bags with a base-hit into right field. Freshman JaCoby Jones (2-for-4) smashed a single just out of the reach of sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) to score Nola and end the Tigers’ 10.2-inning scoreless drought since the ninth inning on Friday. Soon after, junior Trey Watkins brought home Dozar with a sacrifice fly to right field. A throwing error by junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) on the relay enabled both runners to move into scoring position before Whitson had sophomore Raph Rhymes ground out.

Florida loaded the bases with one down in the third inning against senior right-hander Ben Alsup (3-2) but was kept off the board. Adams through the left side, sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) legged out a bunt single and Fontana (2-for-4) punched a single into left field for three Gators on base. However, Alsup had junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

LSU took advantage of a two-out error to build a 3-0 lead in the third inning. Junior Mikie Mahtook earned a free pass with one down, moved to second with his 11th theft and took third on a grounder by Nola. Katz hit a liner to the third that Dent could not handle, bringing home Mahtook for a 3-0 advantage for the hosts.

UF countered with five runs on six hits in the fourth, highlighted by a two-run single from Zunino and a two-out, two-run pinch-hit single by Moyer, to seize a 5-3 lead. Maddox and Tucker (3-for-4) singled to nearly the same spot in left center field to begin the inning and sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) loaded the bases with a single into left field. Zunino narrowed the gap to 3-2 with a single into left field to score Maddox and Tucker and sophomore Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) put Johnson and Zunino into scoring position with his first sacrifice bunt of the campaign. Alsup had Adams ground out to first base before Moyer came off the bench and ripped a single into center that gave the Gators a 4-3 lead. Fontana cranked his third triple of the year into right center to score Moyer for a two-run margin before Alsup struck out Pigott to end the frame.

In the home part of the inning, Ross started things off with a double down the left-field line before Whitson had Jones and Watkins fly out. An infield pop-up by Rhymes got lost in the sun, resulting in runners on the corners for the Tigers. Whitson responded with a strikeout of Hanover to close the stanza.

Tucker led off the fifth with a base-hit into right field, prompting a pitching change. Sophomore Jimmy Dykstra took over for Alsup (4.0 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 3 K) and had Maddox hit into a 5-4-3 double play and Johnson ground out. Mahtook began the bottom of the inning with a single into right field and Whitson countered with a strikeout of Nola before jamming Katz on a foul pop-up to Zunino. Mahtook’s second stolen base of the game put him at second and Whitson induced a pop-up into foul territory by Dozar. However, the ball was lost in the sun and the Gators could not catch it. After Dozar drew a walk, Maddox was called on to replace Whitson. Over 4.2 innings, the right-hander yielded six hits and three runs (two earned), with four strikeouts and four walks. Maddox had Ross fly out to center to snuff out any possible rally.

Adams provided Florida with a 6-3 lead in the sixth with a two-out solo homer to left field off Dykstra. It was his second dinger of the campaign and first since March 9 at USF. Moyer followed with a base-hit into left field and Fontana earned a free pass to end the afternoon for Dykstra (1.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R). Freshman Samuel Peterson uncorked a wild pitch that pushed both runners into scoring position but rebounded to have Pigott fly out to right field.

Maddox caught Hanover looking on strikes to begin the home part of the seventh and then plunked Mahtook. Zunino gunned down Mahtook attempting to steal second base and then Maddox fanned Nola to keep the Gators ahead, 6-3. Moyer gave the Gators some added insurance with his first career homer, a four-bagger to right field to start the ninth against sophomore Kevin Berry for a 7-3 cushion.

Jones led of the bottom of the ninth with a double, LSU’s first hit since beginning the fifth with a single. Although the Tigers would have runners on the corners with two down, Maddox had Mahtook fly out to complete the contest. Florida held a 15-8 advantage in hits, with eight of nine batters contributing at least one hit.

The Gators return to action on Tuesday at 7 p.m. by hosting Winthrop (9-9/2-1 Big South) in the opener of a two-game series at McKethan Stadium. The squads have not met on the diamond since an 8-4 Gator victory on Feb. 17, 2002, in Gainesville.

Game Notes

· Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan improved to 9-4 against LSU.

· The Gators batted .314 (32-for-102) in the series, compared to .260 (27-for-104) for the Tigers.

· UF held a 13-7 advantage in scoring, with six extra-base hits (three homers, three doubles and a homer).

· Jeff Moyer was a perfect 4-for-4 in the series with three RBI, while Preston Tucker was 5-for-12 (.417).

· The Gator bullpen allowed two runs (one earned) in 10.1 innings, with 11 strikeouts and an earned run average of 0.87.

· Mike Zunino raised his hitting streak to eight games and Nolan Fontana increased his to six contests.