LSU batters unload on Florida; Tigers sweep Gators for first time since 2001
The LSU baseball team rode outstanding pitching to victories against Florida on Thursday and Friday.
On Saturday, the hitters took center stage as the Tigers completed a sweep with an 18-6 rout in Alex Box Stadium.
JaCoby Jones hit a grand slam and had a career-high six RBIs as LSU set a season high for runs and tied its season high for hits (19).
Alex Bregman had three hits and three RBIs; Christian Ibarra had three hits and two RBIs; Mason Katz and Raph Rhymes each had two hits and an RBI; Sean McMullen had three hits and two runs scored; and Chris Chinea had a three-run double as coach Paul Mainieri played every position player.
“There were so many heroes,” Mainieri said, “it would be frivolous to name one, because everybody contributed.”
Ten players had at least one hit, and six of them had at least two as the Tigers collected more hits than they had in the first two games combined (17). They scored all the runs in four multi-run innings, getting three in the second, four in the fifth, eight in the sixth and three in the seventh.
LSU’s run total in the sixth matched Florida’s total for the series.
“I think everybody, (Nos.) 1 through 9, swung the bat well today,” Bregman said. “Everyone put together a quality at-bat. It was contagious. When runners were in scoring position, we just decided we were going to drive them in today.”
The Tigers swept the Gators in a three-game series for the first time since 2001 to complete their fourth Southeastern Conference series sweep of the season. They bounced back from their only series loss of the season a week earlier against South Carolina.
“Last weekend, we didn’t get the job done. We didn’t win the series,” Jones said. “So we wanted to come out here and take it to them, and that’s what we did. We came out with a lot of fire in our eyes.”
The Tigers (43-6, 19-5) matched a school record with 19 wins in their first 24 conference games as they head into a series at Texas A&M beginning Thursday.
Ryan Eades (8-1) didn’t steal the show the way fellow starters Cody Glenn and Aaron Nola did in 3-2 and 5-0 victories Thursday and Friday. But Eades was solid nonetheless. After allowing two runs in the first, Eades held the Gators (25-23, 12-12) hitless for four consecutive innings before yielding a single in the sixth, his final inning.
“The last thing you want to do is give up a run or two in the first,” Eades said, “but I just put it behind me, moved on and made pitches, because there was a lot of game left.
“I knew if I put up some zeroes on the board, we would put up some numbers — and sure enough, that’s what happened.”
Jones’ bases-loaded double and Andrew Stevenson’s RBI grounder gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead against Florida starter Danny Young (3-4) in the second.
In the fifth, McMullen led off with a double, and Bregman doubled him home. Walks to Katz and Rhymes loaded the bases for Ibarra, who hit a two-run double to left. Rhymes also scored on Harrison Bader’s error, making it 7-2.
In the sixth, Bregman hit a two-run double, Katz had an RBI grounder, Rhymes singled in a run and Jones launched his grand slam off the scoreboard in left, his second home run of the series and his career-high fifth of the season.
“With the bases loaded and one out, I was trying to hit the ball hard and drive in one run, maybe two,” Jones said. “I got a fastball, and I just let my hands react.”
Will LaMarche pitched a scoreless seventh, Kurt McCune got the first two outs in the eighth and Kevin Berry finished the eighth. Brent Bonvillain started the ninth and lasted just one-third, giving up three hits and three runs. Nick Rumbelow gave up three hits, a walk and a run before getting the final two outs.
The ninth inning was the only blemish for the pitching staff during the sweep, which was the first against Florida in four years.
It didn’t matter after the hitters put up their most runs in an SEC game since an 18-3 victory against Tennessee in 2009.
The runs and the margin of victory were the largest for the Tigers against the Gators in 22 years.
“We were going up against some really good pitchers and tried to scratch across what we could (the first two games),” Katz said. “Today, the hits started falling for us, and we came up with some big ones.”