While most of Gatornation was celebrating the No. 2 seed Florida Gator basketball team’s exciting victory over the No. 7 seeded UCLA Bruins 73-65 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in Tampa, 700 miles away in Baton Rouge, the No.1 ranked Florida Gator baseball team (17-2) were stepping onto the field to take on the No. 5 ranked LSU Tigers (16-3).
Nine innings later, the Gators were victorious with a score of 1-0 over the Tigers in front of the 10,202 in attendance. It was the first time LSU was held scoreless at Alex Box Stadium, which opened February 20, 2009, and the fourth shutout by the Gators this season.
Hudson Randall, the right handed sophomore, pitched 6.2 innings, giving up eight singles, before junior Greg Larson (RHP) took over, followed by junior Nick Maronde. The lefty collected his first save of the year, striking out four batters in 1.2 innings.
This marked Florida’s second 1-0 win of the year after defeating the Miami Hurricanes on March 5th, a game Randall also started.
The Gators’ lone run came from junior Daniel Pigott’s 11th double (19 RBI) of the season, a shot into right center which scored sophomore Nolan Fontana, who had drawn a lead-off walk from Tigers’ freshman starting pitcher Kevin Gausman.
The Tigers threatened early in the bottom of the first inning but Pigott made a diving catch on deep drive to left center. LSU had runners on second and third after consecutive singles, however, Randall struck out junior Mikie Mahtook, and junior Austin Nola ended the inning on a third base ground-out.
During the top half of the second inning sophomore Mike Zunino reached first on a fielding error and stole his fifth base in five attempts on the year.
Randall retired seven Tigers in a row before giving up an infield single to sophomore Raph Rhymes with two outs in the third. Junior Preston Tucker caught a fly ball hit by junior Tyler Hanover to close the inning.
In the fourth, Zunino’s single through right with two outs extended his hitting streak to seven games. In the bottom of the inning, LSU sophomore Mason Katz had a two-out single up the middle and moved into scoring position with his third stolen base. The next batter, junior Grant Dozar, grounded out.
Sophomore Cody Dent drew a one-out walk from Gausman in the fifth but was caught trying to steal second. Fontana and Pigott went back-to-back with two-out singles into center and Tucker’s infield hit loaded the bases. Sophomore Austin Maddox grounded out to Nola at shortstop to end the visitor’s half. In the bottom of the inning, freshman Ty Ross started things off with a single into center, but Randall set down the next two Tigers hitters with consecutive fly outs. A passed ball by Zunino advanced Ross to second, but a second base groundout by Rhymes kept the score 1-0 in favor of the Gators.
Hanover led off the bottom of the sixth with a base hit up the middle, but was followed by Mahtook’s fly ball at the warning track for the first out. Nola hit a line-drive to third, which Dent quickly fired to Maddox at first to tag out Hanover for the double play.
Gausman started the seventh by walking senior Josh Adams who was sacrificed over to second on a bunt by Dent. Fontana’s fly out followed by Pigott’s ground out held the score. Randall set the first two down in the bottom of the seventh before ending his outing after surrendering back-to-back singles. Larson took the mound, and hit junior Trey Watkins with a pitch to load the bases. Larson forced Rhymes to ground out at first.
Gausman continued to pitch well late in the game when he forced the Gators to go three-up three-down in their half of the eighth. After Hanover’s ground out to open the bottom, Mahtook’s single would bring Maronde in to take over for Larson. Maronde forced a Nola fly out to right, then issued a walk to Sophomore Mason Katz. Maronde would strike out the next four batters. Sophomore Kevin Berry entered the game for the Tigers at the top of the ninth, who retired the Gators in order.
Gausman settled down after the first inning and had a spectacular outing, surrendering one run on five hits, four strikeouts, and four walks in eight innings.
Pigott’s two hits gave him his tenth mutli-hit game of the season, leading all Gators.
The Gators look to sweep the series against LSU Sunday, April 20th at 1pm EST, a feat they have yet to accomplish in Baton Rouge.