No. 1 Florida baseball clinches series with 1-0 thriller over No. 5 LSU

BATON ROUGE, LA. — Behind a combined shutout from sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) and juniors Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) and Nick Maronde (Lexington, Ky.), No. 1 Florida (17-2/2-0 SEC) edged No. 5 LSU (16-3/0-2 SEC), 1-0, in front of 10,202 fans on Saturday night.

The victory enabled the Gators to clinch just their second-ever series triumph in Baton Rouge and marked the first time that the Tigers had been held scoreless in the new Alex Box Stadium. UF’s seventh-straight win came as a result of its fourth shutout of the campaign, exceeding the three that the Gator pitching staff threw in 64 games last season.

Randall (3-0) scattered eight singles over 6.2 innings and was followed to the mound by Larson (0.2 IP, 1 H) and Maronde, who struck out four batters over 1.2 innings to collect his first save of the year. Freshman Kevin Gausman (2-1) was the tough-luck loser after permitting five hits and one run over eight innings.

Junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-4) drove in the lone run in the first inning with his team-leading 11th double that brought across sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.). Fontana had drawn a walk to start the contest and scored all the way from first base on Pigott’s two-bagger into right center. Gausman struck out junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) and then sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) lined into an inning-ending double play when Pigott rounded third and never re-touched the base before he returned to second.

The Tigers had a chance to answer in the bottom of the frame with a pair of runners in scoring position and one out but Randall worked out of the jam. Pigott made a tremendous diving catch to rob leadoff batter junior Trey Watkins of possible extra bases and sophomore Raph Rhymes (2-for-4) punched a single into right field. Junior Tyler Hanover (2-for-4) executed a hit-and-run that pushed Rhymes to third and left him on second base after the relay throw. Randall fanned junior Mikie Mahtook and had junior Austin Nola ground out to end the inning.

Randall retired seven Tigers in a row before yielding an infield single to Rhymes with two down in the third. The righty had Hanover fly out to Tucker to close the inning. In the fourth, LSU sophomore Mason Katz had a two-out single up the middle and moved into scoring position with his third theft. However, Randall had junior Grant Dozar ground out.

Sophomore Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.) drew a one-out walk from Gausman in the fifth but was thrown out attempting to steal second. Fontana and Pigott had back-to-back two-out singles into center field with two down and Tucker legged out an infield hit to fill the sacks. Gausman had Maddox ground out to Nola at shortstop to hold the count at 1-0.

In the home part of the inning, freshman Ty Ross (2-for-3) started things off with a single into center and Randall set down freshman JaCoby Jones and Watkins on consecutive fly balls. A passed ball by Zunino advanced Ross to second, only to have Randall induce an inning-ending grounder to second base by Rhymes.

Hanover began the bottom of the sixth with a base-hit up the middle and Randall had Mahtook fly out to warning track for the first out. The righty then had Nola line a ball to third baseman Dent, who fired over to Maddox at first base to complete the inning-ending double play.

Senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) earned a free pass to begin the seventh and was sacrificed over on a bunt by Dent. Gausman had Fontana fly out to center field and Pigott ground out to keep the hosts down a run. Randall collected the first two outs in the bottom of the frame before surrendering back-to-back singles to Ross and Jones. Larson was called in from the bullpen for Randall (6.2 IP, 8 H, 2 K) and plunked Watkins to load the bases. The righty had Rhymes ground out to keep Florida in front.

Mahtook had a one-out single in the eighth off Larson and Maronde took over on the hill. The southpaw had Nola fly out to right but then issued a walk to Katz. Maronde caught sophomore pinch hitter Alex Edwards looking on strikes to send the game to the ninth.

Over eight strong innings, Gausman allowed five hits and one run, with four strikeouts and four walks. Sophomore Kevin Berry came in at the outset of the ninth and put down UF in order. Maronde ended the contest with three-straight punch-outs of junior Jordy Snikeris, Jones and Watkins.

Freshman righty Karsten Whitson (Chipley, Fla.) (3-0, 2.21) will make his SEC debut in tomorrow’s finale at 1 p.m. ET against senior RHP Ben Alsup (3-1, 2.01). The game will be carried live on Cox Sports Television, (Channel 259 on Cox Communications in Gainesville).

Game Notes

· The Gators registered their second 1-0 win of the year after downing Miami (Fla.) by a similar score on March 5, a game that Hudson Randall also started.

· UF has taken its last three games by one run (5-4 over Florida State in 10 innings on Tuesday, 5-4 over LSU on Friday and 1-0 tonight).

· The last time Florida had won back-to-back games at LSU was on May 11-12, 2007 (19-3, 8-4) to clinch the series before dropping the finale, 9-4.

· Randall also defeated the Tigers last season (8.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R) after giving up a leadoff homer to start the contest.

· Mike Zunino stole his team-leading fifth base in five attempts in the second inning.

· Zunino raised his hitting streak to seven games with a base-hit in the fourth. His career-best string of 12 games was done from April 21-May 15, 2010.

· Daniel Pigott had his team-leading 10th multiple-hit game.