Donning the mound for Florida was freshman right-hander Tommy Mace (4-0, 4.44 ERA). Despite some rough patches in the first couple of innings, Mace was able to deliver seven strong innings of work. He allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits while striking out four and walking just one.
With Florida up 4-3, Mace would not pitch the eighth inning as fellow freshman Jordan Butler came on in relief. The left-hander issued a leadoff walk and gave up a single before inducing a foul out for his first out. Florida skipper Kevin O'Sullivan would take no chances though, as he immediately went to closer Michael Byrne for the last five outs of the game.
The junior right-hander generated a groundout that second baseman Blake Reese gloved and threw to first base, but now LSU had runners on second and third with two away. Up to bat now was Jake Slaughter, who roped Byrne's 3-2 offering down the third base line.
There to glove the sharply hit grounder, however, was third baseman Jonathan India. The junior dove to his right, backhanded the ball, and then threw a strike to first base for the final out of the inning. It was a marvelous web gem that could not have come at any more of a crucial time in the game.
In the ninth, Byrne was back out there to close it out. He struck out the first two Tigers he faced, allowed a single, then induced a fly out to center field to end the game. It would be his 13th save of the season and give Tommy Mace his fourth career victory.
After going down 3-0 early, the Gator offense responded with three runs in the third and a run in the fifth as Florida banged out eight total hits. Here's how the game-tying rally in the third played out:
Senior center fielder Nick Horvath led off the inning with a single to left field. Freshman catcher Cal Greenfield proceeded to draw a walk. Up next was junior shortstop Deacon Liput, who doubled to left center to plate Horvath and put runners on second and third with no outs. It was now 3-1 LSU.
Junior designated hitter Nelson Maldonaldo then grounded out to second base to score Greenfield and move Liput to third base. It was now 3-2 LSU with Jonathan India up to bat. India would knock a single through the left side of the infield to bring home Liput and knot the score up at 3-3.
Despite India reaching second on a failed pickoff attempt later in the inning, the Gators would be unable to knock him in as Will Dalton flew out to center and Austin Langworthy grounded out to second base.
The two Gators with multiple hits tonight were Jonathan India and Nick Horvath. Out of the three-hole, India went 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored while Horvath went 2-3 with a run scored down in the eight-hole.
Austin Langworthy had the clutch hit for Florida in a 1-4 effort. In the bottom of the fifth inning with two outs and runners on first and third, the sophomore left fielder singled up the middle to score Jonathan India and give the Gators a 4-3 lead.
The remaining Gators with base hits were Deacon Liput (1-3 with a double and a walk), Brady Smith (1-3), and Shane Shifflett (1-2).
The fielding for both teams was absolutely atrocious tonight as Florida committed four errors and LSU had two.
Florida's miscues consisted of two throwing errors from Blake Reese, a throwing error from Jonathan India, and a fielding error from India as well. Reese's errant throw in the second inning allowed LSU to take a 2-0 advantage as Jake Slaughter homered immediately after. Then again in the third inning another throwing gaffe from Reese would eventually turn into another LSU run to increase Florida's deficit to 3-0.
Both of India's mistakes came in the sixth inning. With one out, he misplayed a ground ball and then on the next ball hit to him he made a wild throw to first base. Fortunately for Florida, neither of these errors would lead to an LSU run.
Starting pitcher Ma'Khail Hilliard and third basemen Jake Slaughter committed the two Tiger errors. Hilliard sailed a throw trying to pick off Jonathan India in the third inning and Slaughter made an errant throw to first base in the fourth inning. Neither of these blunders would come back to haunt the Tigers.
For the the second consecutive season, the Florida Gators (42-15) will be advancing to the the third round of the SEC Tournament as members of the winner's bracket. Before previewing their upcoming matchup against the Arkansas Razorbacks (37-17), here are my final thoughts on the win over LSU tonight:
- Dating back to last season, the Gators have won five of their last six games against the Tigers.
- This was the 19th meeting between Florida and LSU in the SEC Tournament.
- The Gators are now 12-7 all-time against the Tigers in the SEC Tournament.
- Deacon Liput's third inning double was his 12th two-bagger of the season.
Up next for Florida are the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Gators and Razorbacks met up in the regular season down in Gainesville where Florida took two of three games. Another freshman will get the nod for the Gators as right-hander Jack Leftwich (4-4, 4.80 ERA) is slated to start against the Razorbacks. First pitch is set for some time around 9:30 p.m. ET on May 24th. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.
As for the LSU Tigers (34-24), they will fight for a second chance at Florida as they will play the South Carolina Gamecocks (33-22) in an elimination game around 2 p.m. ET on May 24th.
*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com
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