UF baseball falls to LSU in SEC opener
Published: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:35 p.m.
HOOVER, Ala. — Anyone watching Wednesday night's Florida-LSU baseball game in the SEC Tournament would be hard-pressed to tell which team just won an SEC title and which one limped into Regions Park with 14 losses in its last 18 games.
At a glance
What: SEC Baseball Tournament
Who: No. 1 seed Florida (40-14, 22-9 SEC) vs. No. 4 seed Arkansas (40-17, 18-13)
Where: Regions Park, Hoover, Ala.
When: Thursday, 2:20 p.m. ET
Gainesville TV: Cox Ch. 259
Gainesville Radio: 103.7 FM
The eighth-seeded Tigers smacked the top-seeded Gators 10-6 in the first round of a tournament Florida has struggled in under Kevin O'Sullivan. Florida will be facing an elimination game in today's second game against Arkansas, which lost 2-0 to Vanderbilt on Wednesday night.
"They played a better game than we did," said O'Sullivan. "I thought (the Gators) were really flat. We addressed it before we stretched. You can't just turn it on and off. You can't go through the motions this week and come out ready to play next weekend."
Florida made it interesting when the Gators rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth and had the tying run at the plate. But catcher Ben McMahan struck out on a 3-2 pitch and LSU added an insurance run in the top of the ninth.
Here's how bad it was — Nolan Fontana committed an error. It was only his third this year in 53 games.
LSU pounded out 19 hits against six Florida pitchers and scored twice on wild pitches. Florida's SEC freshman of the year Austin Maddox was thrown out at third when third base coach Craig Bell first waved him home, then stopped Maddox, who stumbled trying to get back to the base.
It was the fourth straight loss in an SEC opener for UF, which drops to 1-5 in the tournament under O'Sullivan.
"We spoke about that," O'Sullivan said. "We want to send the seniors out on a positive note. We want to be around here for awhile. We haven't been able to quite figure this thing out. It's discouraging that we haven't been successful here."
UF starter Brian Johnson threw only one inning Sunday against South Carolina after the Gators had wrapped up the SEC title so he would be fresh to open the tournament. But the plan hardly worked out.
LSU batted around in the second inning as Johnson gave up five hits including Mike Gaudet's solo homer to dead center and walked three in the inning. Mason Katz, starting only his third game for LSU this season, doubled his RBI total with a two-run single.
Johnson, who pitched 6 1/3 innings in a win over LSU that completed a sweep of the Tigers earlier this year, was lifted in the top of the fourth down 5-1 with two outs and two on. LSU added to the lead with a single and a wild pitch by Anthony DeSclafani.
"I fell behind too many hitters," Johnson said. "No excuses. They swung the bats well today. (Katz's hit) was a big RBI. That gave them momentum."
What Johnson couldn't do with his arm he tried to do with his bat as he had three hits including two doubles. Matt den Dekker knocked in three of Florida's runs including a solo homer leading off the eighth. Josh Adams and Tyler Thompson added two-out RBI singles in the inning.
LSU starter Anthony Ranaudo, who lasted only two innings against the Gators in Gainesville, pitched 7 2/3 innings Wednesday night, his season high.
"He was a totally different pitcher this time around," den Dekker said.
Although Florida managed 11 hits, O'Sullivan said the Gators had too many fly-ball outs.
"Especially with the dimensions of this park (340 feet down the lines)," he said. "We've got to come back out here (today) and get on top of the ball."
NOTES: Before the game, O'Sullivan was presented on the field with the SEC regular-season championship trophy by SEC commissioner Mike Slive. ... Florida chose to rest starting catcher Mike Zunino, who injured his thumb in the Georgia series, to be sure he's ready for next week's regionals. Zunino started Friday's game in Columbia, but McMahan started the other two. ... Den Dekker now has a 16-game hitting streak.