The Florida Gators’ (40-21) SEC Tournament ended on a sour note with a 2-0 loss to LSU (44-14-1) in the SEC Tournament championship game on Sunday afternoon but the Gators post season is just beginning.
“It was a great game. It’s how a championship game should be. It was close on both sides. I thought both teams played outstanding defense,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It just came down to one pitch. I’m really pleased with how we played this week. We lost that first game Wednesday to Kentucky, but we battled back to get to the final game.”
Redshirt junior Karsten Whitson earned the start on Sunday and looked every bit of the Whitson that was named national freshman pitcher of the year in 2011. Whitson was his normal wild self — he threw 36 strikes and 30 balls in six innings — but was in command when he needed to be and cruised through one of the hottest lineups in the SEC.
“I felt good in the pen [before the game],” said Whitson. “I had three pitches that were really working for me. I pitched a solid six innings and went out there and executed my game plan.”
Whitson was matched pitch-for-pitch by a duo of Tiger pitchers. Alden Cartwright threw four scoreless, only giving up one hit, before giving way to Nate Fury who also surrendered a lone hit over two innings of work.
The Gators and Tigers went into the eighth inning scoreless. With Ryan Harris on the mound, Alex Bregman kicked things off with a one-out single to left field. Bregman was picked off of first base one pitch before Jake Fraley laced a ball in front of Buddy Reed in left. Fraley stole second but the steal wasn’t necessary. With two strikes, Ryan Harris hung a slider high and over the middle of the plate to Sean McMullen who deposited the mistake over the right field wall for a two-out, two-run home run.
The Gators went down in order in the eighth before Casey Turgeon earned a walk to start the ninth. A Richie Martin 6-4-3 double play and Harrison Bader ground out ended any chance at a Florida come back and gave LSU their fifth SEC Championship in the past seven years.
“Tip your hat to LSU,” said O’Sullivan. “It’s good to be done with the SEC schedule, and we can play somebody else. We’re looking forward to next week. We’ll get back to Gainesville and practice on Tuesday.”
The loss is disappointing but it does not define the Gators post season, which is just beginning. Florida now stands in place to be named the No. 1 overall seed, bolstered by their No. 1 RPI ranking and toughest strength of schedule in the country.
Karsten Whitson, Josh Tobias and Harrison Bader were all named to the All-Tournament team.
8:45 p.m. EDIT: The NCAA released the host sites for regional play and the Gators will host a regional, as expected. The full field will be released at noon on Monday.