BATON ROUGE, La. — Down to its final two outs in the ninth inning, No. 1 Florida (16-2/1-0 SEC) used a game-tying solo homer by sophomore Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.) and a go-ahead two-run single by sophomore Nolan Fontana (Winter Garden, Fla.) en route to a 5-4 victory over No. 5 LSU (16-2/0-1 SEC) in the league opener for both clubs on Friday night in front of a record crowd of 10,220 fans at Alex Box Stadium. The triumph marked just the third time in its last 11 visits to Baton Rouge that UF claimed game one of the series.
The Tigers clawed to within 5-4 on an RBI double with none out in the bottom of the ninth by freshman Ty Ross before junior Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) recorded the final three outs to strand sophomore pinch runner Beau Didier on second base to pick up his third save and preserve the Gators’ sixth-consecutive victory.
Holding a 3-2 lead entering the ninth, LSU turned to junior All-American Matty Ott (0-1) to finish the game. The righty had sophomore Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-for-4) ground out but then surrendered a towering shot deep to left field by Zunino (2-for-4, two RBI). It was his fourth round-tripper of the season and resulted in a 3-3 count. Sophomore Kamm Washington (Boynton Beach, Fla.) followed with a pinch-hit single into right field and junior shortstop Austin Nola misplayed a grounder by senior Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.), giving Florida two runners aboard. Junior Jeff Moyer (Winter Garden, Fla.) came through with a pinch-hit single on a 0-2 pitch from Ott to load the bases with one down. Fontana (1-for-4) moved the Gators in front for the first time all night with a two-run single into right field that brought in Washington and Adams and prompted another pitching change. Freshman Samuel Peterson took over on the mound for Ott (0.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER) and Moyer was caught in a run-down between third and home for the second out, while Fontana went to second. The reliever had junior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) foul out to third base to hold the deficit at two runs.
In the bottom of the stanza, DeSclafani replaced junior Tommy Toledo (Tampa, Fla.) (2-1), who scattered three hits and gave up one run over 2.2 innings. Junior Mike Lowery began the frame with an infield hit and went to second on a throwing error by third baseman Moyer. Ross narrowed the gap to 5-4 with a double off the wall in left field and was replaced by Didier. DeSclafani had freshman JaCoby Jones pop up a bunt attempt to Zunino and then caught junior Trey Watkins and sophomore Raph Rhymes each looking on strikes to close the ballgame.
LSU came out of the gates with two runs on three hits in the first inning against Johnson. Watkins led off with an infield single, was sacrificed to second by Rhymes and went to third with his 10th stolen base. Junior Tyler Hanover drew a walk for runners on the corners and junior Mikie Mahtook (3-for-4) roped an RBI single into center field to score Watkins with the opening run. Nola followed with a base-hit to right field to load the bases and a sacrifice fly by sophomore Mason Katz plated Hanover with the second run. A double steal by Mahtook and Nola gave the Tigers a pair of runners in scoring position before Johnson fanned junior Grant Dozar to end the stanza.
The Gators loaded the bases with one out in the third but came away empty-handed. Junior Tyler Thompson (Tequesta, Fla.) opened with a bloop single into center and Adams followed with a double to right center to raise his hitting streak to seven games. Fontana earned a one-out free pass to fill the sacks but freshman Kurt McCune had Pigott hit into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
UF cut the deficit in half in the fourth on an RBI single by Zunino. Sophomore Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) had singled up the middle and Johnson moved him to third with a one-out base-hit. Zunino put the Gators on the board with an RBI single through the right side of the infield that scored Maddox. McCune prevented further trouble by having Thompson hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Johnson retired 10-straight LSU hitters before yielding a two-out single in the fourth to Dozar. The left-hander closed the inning by having Ross fly out to right field.
Johnson helped his own cause with a game-tying two-out RBI single in the sixth that knotted the game at 2-2. Junior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) reached on a throwing error by Nola with one down and was able to reach second on the play. After McCune jammed Maddox on a foul pop-up, Johnson sliced a 2-1 pitch into right field to bring across Tucker with the equalizer.
In the home part of the inning, Mahtook doubled with one down and Toledo was summoned from the bullpen to replace Johnson (5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R). The right-hander had both Nola and Katz ground out to Fontana to end the inning.
Dozar started LSU’s seventh with a single into right field and Toledo picked up the first out of Ross when he bunted strike three foul. A grounder by Jones forced freshman pinch runner Spencer Ware at second base and then Toledo fanned Watkins to keep the game tied.
Freshman Ryan Eades took over for McCune (7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER) to begin the eighth and set down the first two Gators before Tucker singled up the middle. The righty caught Maddox looking on strikes to end the stanza. Mahtook laced a two-out single in the bottom of the inning and Nola connected on a double down the left-field line to move the Tigers in front, 3-2.
Florida ended up with a 12-10 advantage in hits, as eight of its nine starters contributed at least one hit. In a matchup of right-handers on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET, sophomore Hudson Randall (Atlanta, Ga.) (2-0, 1.08) will meet Tiger freshman Kevin Gausman (2-0, 3.28). The game will be shown live on FOX Sports Florida and on DirecTV alternate channel 655 and DISH alternate channel 453.
· Both tonight’s paid (12,076) and actual (10,220) attendance figures were Alex Box Stadium records.
· UF is now 5-1 against top-25 opponents this season and 2-1 versus top-five foes.
· The Gators moved to 3-0 in one-run contests in 2010.
· Florida had allowed only one run in the first inning in 17 previous games entering tonight, when they gave up two.
· The Tigers had three stolen bases in the first inning.
· The Gators hit into double plays in both the second, third and fourth innings.
· Mike Zunino and Preston Tucker are tied for team lead with four homers.
· The come-from-behind win was the third of the year for the Gators, second-straight after a 5-4 victory over Florida State on Tuesday night.