Florida baseball completes series sweep over LSU


Florida's Harrison Bader (8) at bat during the final game of the weekend series against LSU at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville on Sunday. The Gators beat the Tigers 11-7 to sweep the weekend series.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 6:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 6:52 p.m.

Florida broke out the bats and the brooms Sunday, combining 10 hits with a season-high 10 walks by LSU pitching to down the No. 8 Tigers, 11-7, and sweep the weekend SEC series before a McKethan Stadium crowd of 4,012.

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With the sweep, just UF's fourth ever over LSU, Florida moved into a share of the SEC lead while capping a perfect 4-0 week against top-10 competition that began with Tuesday's 4-1 win over top-ranked FSU in Jacksonville.

The streaking Gators (19-9, 6-3) have now won 13 of their last 16 games, while the Tigers, losers of four straight, slipped to 20-8-1, 3-5-1.

“Obviously our pitching and our defense has been really good for a long time now, and it was really good to see our offense after falling behind respond every time that LSU scored,” coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “I'm not sure that three weeks ago, this team would have had it in them to fight back.

“I think we're at a different place right now. Obviously we're playing better, but it's only the third (SEC) series of 10, so we've got a long way to go. But I was really proud of the way we bounced back offensively.”

The Tigers staked Zac Person (1-1), a lefty who had made 12 relief appearances but was making his first start of the year, to leads of 1-0, 3-1 and 4-2, but he could not protect any of them, getting lifted after just 2 2/3 innings and allowing five runs, all earned, on four hits in taking the loss. Person surrendered a first inning solo home run to Harrison Bader to tie the game at 1-1.

Five relievers followed for the Tigers, but they all struggled, combining to walk eight UF batters and give up six more earned runs on six hits.

Trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the third, UF took the lead for good with four runs, capped by a clutch two-out, two-run single by freshman Peter Alonso that broke a 4-all tie.

“It felt really good,” Alonso said. “It's been awhile since I've gotten into one like that. It was just good to get that one out of the way and just keep on rolling.”

That's just what the Gators did, extending the lead to 10-4 with four more runs in the fifth, with the key hits a two-run, bases-loaded single by pinch-hitter Mike Fahrman and a two-run double by Richie Martin.

Florida added a single run in the eighth on a two-out, RBI infield hit by freshman John Sternagel, who knocked in a career-high three runs to lead the Gators.

While UF starter Justin Shafer, who gave up six hits and four runs in just two-plus innings of work, also struggled, former Santa Fe High School standout Kirby Snead (1-0) was solid.

The freshman lefty threw a career-high 4 2/3 innings of two-hit, scoreless relief to earn the win, the first of his college career, retiring 14 of the 17 batters he faced – including nine in a row at one point – on a career-high 47 pitches.

“I just took it inning-by-inning, pitch-by-pitch and batter-by-batter,” said Snead. “I just let the game come to me and didn't try to do too much to get people out.”

Bobby Poyner finished off the victory, allowing just two hits and no earned runs over the final 2 1/3 innings.

The Tigers, however, did take advantage of UF's first error in four games to plate three unearned runs in the top of the ninth, capped by a two-run, two-out home run by Chris Sciambra, to cut the lead in half before Poyner got the final out.

The Gators close out the homestand with a game against Florida Atlantic Tuesday night at 7 before starting a season-long, eight-game road trip that begins with a three-game SEC series at No. 19 Kentucky that gets underway Friday at 6:30 p.m.

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