It didn’t take Florida right hander Patrick Keating long to recognize that the stomach virus he had been fighting for the past 24 hours was still with him. The junior was unable to keep the pre-game meal down and required an IV to battle dehydration. The Harrisburg, Illinois native then went out and made the visiting LSU Tigers sick with complete game gem as Florida beat LSU 7-1 and clinched their third consecutive Southeastern Conference baseball series in the process.
“With the sickness that’s going around right now, it’s tough,” senior Brandon McArthur said. “He just took it by the horns and he (Patrick Keating) was able to throw really well today and keep us in the ballgame. Luckily enough, we were able to expand the lead throughout the game and took a little weight off his shoulders, but he continued to go up there and battle.”
Jonathan Pigott, assistant coach Don Norris, and Keating have contracted the virus thus far. It didn’t seem to bother Keating today though.
Keating (4-0, 2.41) needed just 95 pitches to tame the Tigers. He allowed seven hits and one earned run, while striking out six. He consistently worked ahead on the Tigers batters. Keating was so dominant that he went to three balls on only two batters the entire game. It’s a shame that he didn’t feel better, because it was his finest performance ever as a Florida Gator and it occurred before a McKethan Stadium crowd of 4,015 that passed up a Saturday afternoon at the beach for a beautiful day at the ballpark. An absolutely beautifully pitched day at the ballpark.
“I had to get sent home from the game yesterday,” Keating stated. “And then, I was throwing up all morning, but JB got me hooked up to an IV earlier today and made me feel a little better…Sully said something before the game that a lot of people pitch better when their sick, because they’re really relaxed and I was really relaxed today for some reason. I don’t know why. I’ve been really focusing a lot on my mechanics and getting ahead early in the count and get contact on the first three pitches.”
“It was his, all his,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said when asked who made the decision to allow Keating to start the game. “I just stayed out of it and allowed our trainer and him (Keating) deal with it. And just let me know by two o’clock, so that I can let somebody else know. I was kind of anticipating him not pitching to be honest with you and switching Tommy (Toledo) to day and him tomorrow. And if he couldn’t pitch, I’d even gone as far as talked to Stephen Locke about pitching tomorrow. We had kind of a plan in place, but luckily enough for us, he pitched well.”
Florida improved to 20-5, 7-1 and remained in sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference. LSU dropped to 15-10, 2-6.
Just as they have so often of late, the Gators took command early and often putting three runs up in the first inning. Leadoff hitter Avery Barnes took the second pitch by LSU starter Ryan Verdugo (4-2) to right field for a single. Right fielder Jonathan Pigott doubled to the gap in right center scoring Barnes. Two batters later, designated hitter Dustin Bamberg singled to drive Pigott home. Third baseman Jon Townsend singled to right field. First baseman Brandon McArthur followed with a double to right center scoring Bamberg for the Gators 3-0 lead.
The Gators picked up two more runs in the third. Shortstop Cole Figueroa and second baseman Josh Adams got things started with back-to-back singles to start the inning. They moved into scoring position on Bamberg’s ground out to second. Townsend drove them both in with a two-run single to right field giving Florida the 5-0 advantage.
McArthur singled to right field once again. Verdugo plunked Matt den Dekker on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases. LSU skipper Paul Mainieri had seen enough and made the call to the bullpen for Jordan Brown. Florida absolutely rocked Verdugo for 10 hits and five earned runs.
Florida pounded out 14 hits on the day.
“I thought that we had a great approach today,” O’Sullivan said. “I don’t know what it was and we looked up on the board and we had ten hits and I think nine were to the opposite gap. There was one that was to the pull side and that was Avery’s (Barnes) to start the inning off. So, they stayed through the ball and weren’t trying to do too much and I think that overall, our approach has been outstanding. Ever since that Ole Miss series, we’ve been swinging the bats pretty good.”
LSU picked up their only run in the fifth inning. With one out, Leon Landry singled on a hot shot to third base. Townsend kept the ball in front of him, but was unable to throw out Landry on the play. Shortstop D.J. LeMahieu singled toward the gap at second base and LeMahieu advanced on the throw, while Ochinko scored for the Tigers.
Den Dekker and company helped put the game away in the seventh. McArthur singled for his third hit of the game. He stole second base and trotted home on den Dekker’s two-run blast over the right field fence.
Keating sent the Tigers down three up and three down in the eight and ninth innings squelching any thoughts of a rally.
“I was glad that I could get out there and save our bullpen for tomorrow,” Keating said. “Our defense played really well and Buddy (Munroe) caught a good game. So, I’m glad to get out of here with a CG.”
Two Florida veterans who have swung the hot bats of late produced once again. Townsend and McArthur both went 3 for 4 on the day. Townsend has raised his average to .299 from .232 a week ago. McArthur has his batting average at .305 up from .280 a few days ago. Sophomore den Dekker has also raised his average too. He is now hitting .318 up from .291 before the weekend.
“I kept working hard,” Townsend said. “It’s difficult when you get into a slump and I knew that eventually I was going to come out of it. I just didn’t know when. I still have got a long way to go. I’ll be the first to tell you that. Hopefully, I keep my approach and keep hitting the ball.”
Florida will send freshman Tommy Toledo (4-0, 1.93) to the mound for the sweep on Sunday afternoon. Opponents are batting just .200 against Toledo. The first pitch is scheduled for 1pm. The game will televised live on Sun Sports.