The Florida Gators will play on Sunday with a chance to win its eighth SEC Tournament Championship and second in as many years after beating LSU 1-0 on Saturday.
Scott Moss drew the start for Florida against the LSU Tigers on Saturday in a win or go home SEC Tournament semi-final matchup. The redshirt sophomore who has had a long road back to the mound since Tommy John surgery faced a red-hot Tiger ball club, winners of 14 of their last 15 games.
“It was definitely very nerve-wracking,” Moss said of his feelings before the game. “Being out in the bullpen before the game calmed me down a lot. I knew I would have to do my best.”
Moss didn’t look nervous when he got out on to the mound in the top of the first. The 6-5 lefty retired the first five batters he faced and worked around a two-out single in the second, answering with his first strikeout of the game. Moss surrendered a leadoff double in the third and a bunt single gave LSU runners on the corners with no outs. Strikeout number two of the afternoon and a double play erased the threat and kept the game scoreless.
While Moss navigated the Tiger lineup, LSU starter Caleb Gilbert was keeping the Gators off balance at the plate. Gilbert retired the side in order in the first and then, like Moss did in the third; let the first two batters reach base in the second. Gilbert induced a groundball double play from Deacon Liput and got Danny Reyes to fly out to right field to end the frame.
The two starters traded zeroes back and forth until Florida came to bat in the bottom of the sixth.
Dalton Guthrie’s infield single got things started but a JJ Schwarz strikeout and Mike Rivera groundout gave Florida two outs with Guthrie on second. Jonathan India strode to the plate, the biggest at-bat of the freshman’s career thus far. India quickly fell behind in the count 1-2. Gilbert’s next offering was down and in, jamming India. The third baseman got just enough on it to loft the ball down, and just fair, along the left field line. Guthrie raced home as India slid into second base, turned to the Gator dugout and let out a huge Gator chomp.
“I don’t know,” India said when asked how he kept the ball fair. “I just stayed relaxed and loose and tried to put a good swing on the pitch. I was lucky enough that it stayed fair.”
With six innings pitched, and 71 pitches thrown, Kevin O’Sullivan pulled Scott Moss from the game. Moss posted career highs for innings (6) and strikeouts (7) in his third win of the season.
Dane Dunning replaced Moss on the mound and quickly found trouble. Chris Reid hit a one out double down the left field line. Dunning worked around the hit and then shut it down the rest of his outing. The junior lasted 1.2 innings, striking out three. LSU struck out 11 times Saturday afternoon, tying a season high for the team with the fewest strikeouts in the SEC.
Dunning struck out the first two he faced in the eighth inning before Antoine Duplantis singled to right center. That brought up the left-handed hitting Jake Fraley, and a call to Kirby Snead in the bullpen. Snead got his man on one pitch, producing an inning-ending pop fly to shortstop.
Shaun Anderson took over in the ninth inning and made things interesting. Kramer Robertson slapped a fastball to right field to lead off the inning. Bryce Jordan squared to bunt, but Anderson spiked two sliders in the dirt, advancing Robertson, the tying run, to second. Anderson came back from 3-0 to strike Jordan out. Pinch hitter Brody Wofford grounded out to first, giving Florida two outs, but also putting the tying run just 90-feet away. Beau Jordan flied out harmlessly to right field to end the game and send Florida on to the championship game.
Kevin O’Sullivan would not name a starter for the Championship on Sunday. Given how the tournament has gone, Alex Faedo, A.J. Puk and Dane Dunning will not be available to throw Sunday. O’Sullivan did not rule out using Logan Shore, although Florida’s ace would be on a very tight pitch count with a regional coming up next week in Gainesville.
Florida will take on Texas A&M at 3 p.m. EST, with the opportunity to win its eighth SEC Tournament Championship and second in as many years. Texas A&M is making its first appearance in the SEC Tournament Championship game.