The #4 seeded Florida Gator baseball team is on their way to their second consecutive SEC Championship after defeating the #1 seeded LSU Tigers in a nail biter yesterday.
LSU did the scoring early as second baseman Jared Foster singled home Andrew Stevenson to give the Tigers a 1-0 advantage in the second inning. It would stay this way until the Gators broke through in the eighth inning. Senior third baseman Josh Tobias led off the inning with a single and then advanced to second on sophomore Peter Alonso’s walk. With two men on and no one out, the hot hitting freshman JJ Schwarz came up and smoked a double into left field to score Tobias and knot the game up at one a piece.
In the top of the ninth inning with the score still 1-1, freshman catcher Mike Rivera came to bat. Down 1-2 in the count, Rivera smashed the biggest home run of his young Gator career to left field to give the Gators a 2-1 lead over the #1 team in the country!
In the bottom of the ninth, closer Taylor Lewis worked a perfect ninth to seal the win and avenge last year’s loss to LSU in the 2014 SEC Championship. Lewis was a workhorse out of the bullpen as he allowed just one hit in 4.1 scoreless innings and retired 12 of the 14 LSU batters he faced. Florida’s starter, freshman Alex Faedo, was pulled after just 2.2 innings after giving up 1 run on 6 hits. His pitch count was at 56 before sophomore Kirby Snead was brought in to relieve him. Snead would throw two innings of scoreless relief and strike out three batters before handing it over to Lewis for the rest of the game.
From the offensive side of this pitcher’s duel, there were some bright spots for the Gators. Junior left fielder Harrison Bader, potentially playing in his final SEC Tournament, went 3 for 4 while JJ Schwarz went 2 for 4 with an RBI. The big hit of the day of course, goes to Mike Rivera with his clutch homer in the ninth.
What occurred in yesterday’s game was very ironic to me, as just a year ago it was LSU who used a late home run to beat Florida in the SEC Championship. Now, with the tables turned, the Gators will need to find a way to break through and take home their first SEC Championship since 2011.
As has been the case for most of the season, the Florida Gators (43-16) had to rely on their bullpen since the starting pitcher could not work deep into the game. It was enough to beat LSU, but the Gators are going to need a solid performance from their starter in the championship if they want to beat Vanderbilt (42-18).
The Commodores present a tough matchup as they won the SEC East by just one game over the Gators and are the defending National Champions. They also romped the powerful Texas A&M Aggies 12-3 to advance to the championship game. Florida definitely has a chance, however, as they took two of three games on the road against the Commodores just a few weeks ago. Game time is set for 4:30 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN2. It is very fitting that these two will be duking it out to determine who rules the SEC!
*All stats accredited to Gatorzone.com