As LSU designated hitter Brayden Jobert rounded the bases, the third-base dugout of Florida Ballpark lost its mind.
As the Tigers’ roster whooped, hollered and rattled the dugout cage to celebrate the sophomore’s second home run of the day, a ‘L-S-U’ chant broke out among the smattering of purple and gold faithful in attendance.
The scene could almost make a fan forget the Tigers were the away team.
The No. 8 Florida Gators (17-7, 3-3 SEC) fell victim to another offensive onslaught from No. 24 LSU (17-7, 3-3 SEC) Sunday, this time a 11-2 defeat, to let the Tigers steal the series.
After a quiet opening three innings featured two combined hits, the LSU bats roared forth in the top of the fourth. After a 16-run performance Saturday to even the series, the Tigers’ launched a pair of two-run homers in the fourth frame, a Jobert fly to right field followed by a laser to left from catcher Hayden Trivinski. All of the sudden, Florida found itself down four runs.
The visitors broke the game open in the top of the sixth. Three singles, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly in a six-batter stretch brought home a trio of runs for the Tigers. Jobert followed with his three-run rope to Dizney Grove over right-center field to make it a 10-0 ballgame. LSU right fielder Giovanni DiGiacomo (a worthy nominee for the best name in college baseball) singled to bring home an 11th run to cap off the inning, and Florida Ballpark began to sound like Baton Rouge as Tigers fans basked in a blowout.
Between Saturday and Sunday’s games, the Tigers scored 27 runs in 15 innings.
“It’s not a point where you’re gonna panic,” UF head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “But at the same time, this is new for us, too. We haven’t been through something like this in back-to-back games…LSU just imposed their will on us.”
Florida starter Ryan Slater, a freshman with three earned runs and 19 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched entering Sunday’s contest, started on the weekend rubber for the first time and couldn’t maintain momentum. The two fourth-inning homers ended his afternoon with four earned runs, one strikeout and a staggering four hit batters through 3.1 innings pitched.
Every Florida pitcher struggled to avoid the LSU batters. The Gators nailed eight Tigers’ batters through the first six innings, with Nick Ficarrotta and Brandon Neely each striking a batter and Philip Abner beaning two in relief appearances. Five of Florida’s six pitchers for the day were freshmen.
“I can go on and on with the list of pitchers that were freshman and have been successful here,” O’Sullivan said. “I’m not going to sit in front of you guys and make excuses. There’s no excuses. They’re talented enough”
The Gators kept failing to capitalize at the plate in the early innings. The orange and blue left at least one runner in scoring position in three of the first four innings, including loaded bases in the bottom of the first.
“Bottom line is, he (LSU starter Samuel Dutton) made pitches when he needed to and got out of the first. Walked the leadoff man in the second and worked through it, it was competitive.”
Down 11 runs, Florida finally roused out of its offensive slumber in the bottom of the sixth. An RBI single from left fielder Wyatt Langford cut the deficit to 10 before the Gators loaded the bases with one out, in desperate need of a run. Florida only managed one more run, however, and dozens of home fans began filing out of the ballpark.
An uneventful, scoreless final three innings later, and Florida let its conference home opener slip through its fingers with back-to-back losses to lose the series.
The Gators return to the diamond Tuesday with a neutral-site battle against Florida State in Jacksonville.