Gators drop series finale to Tigers, 6-3

Sunday was a day of redemption for LSU pitcher Jared Bradford. Hit all over the ball park Friday night when he threw 13 pitches and gave up five runs, Bradford came back Sunday to throw a complete game, using 121 pitches to lead the Tigers to a 6-3 win over the Florida Gators at McKethan Stadium.

“You’ve got to tip your cap to their starting pitcher,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan, whose Gators (20-6, 7-2 SEC) won the first two games of this Southeastern Conference series. “To come back after having a tough night on Friday and throw a complete game, he did a heck of a job. He earned that one.”

Home runs provided the bulk of the offense for both teams Sunday. With the exception of an RBI double in the ninth by LSU’s Ryan Schimpf, home runs were responsible for all the scoring.

LSU started the second inning when Florida starter Tommy Toledo hit Blake Dean with a 0-1 off-speed pitch and Matt Clark followed with his 12th home run of the season, a towering drive off the scoreboard in right field. Leon Landry made it back-to-back with a blast that sailed over the scoreboard to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

Toledo admitted that he didn’t have his best stuff during Sunday’s game, but was able to fight through it to keep his team in the game.

“Today was a rough day,” Toledo said. “I tried to get the ball down as low as I could, but they made some good hits. I missed a couple spots and they took advantage of it. We were trying to pitch away to Clark, but he hit the ball well this weekend.”

Cole Figueroa got the Gators on the board in the fourth inning on a first pitch home run. He turned an inside fastball around and deposited it onto the road behind the right field fence.

“[The wind] was carrying a little bit more than usual today,” Figueroa said in a somber mood after the loss. “I was just taking good swings.”

Schimpf got the run back for LSU in the fifth inning with a solo home run into the bullpen in right center field to extend LSU’s lead to 4-1.

The Gators’ half of the sixth inning provided more fireworks. Figueroa hit another first pitch bomb over the right-center field fence to bring the score to 4-2. Two batters later, designated hitter Dustin Bamberg hit the ball opposite field, barely clearing the right field fence to bring the Gators within a run.

The theme of solo homeruns continued in the eighth inning. After Kyle Mullaney was helped out by a spectacular play in center field by Matt den Dekker, he struck out Blake Dean looking. The next pitch got out of McKethan Stadium in a flash off the bat of Clark, his second home run of the day and third of the series giving LSU a 4-2 lead.

“You can’t make mistakes and you have to hit spots,” O’Sullivan said on pitching to Clark. “The way the wind was blowing we were trying to pitch him away and if he hurt us it was a single to left. We missed a spot, he got a ball to turn on and that’s what happened.”

The focus now turns to Tuesday night’s matchup with Florida State at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. The Gators took the first matchup between the two teams, 6-1.