Florida defeats LSU 11-7, sweeps series

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — LSU’s relievers have caught their hitters’ bug.

Just hope it’s not long-lasting.

The woes at the plate infiltrated the bullpen Sunday in Florida’s 11-7 win at McKethan Stadium, resulting in a Gators sweep of the three-game series and sending the Tigers to a stinging fourth straight loss.

LSU (20-8-1, 3-5-1 Southeastern Conference) was swept in a regular-season conference series for the first time in nearly three years, and the Tigers now have as many losses through 29 games as they had through last year’s 57-game regular season.

Up next in the SEC: a home series against Mississippi State, a team ranked as high as 15th nationally and leading the SEC West.

“All of our goals are still out there in front of us,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “We need to get better. We need to regroup and stay positive.”

A group of relievers Sunday walked eight, allowed six hits and six runs. In all, LSU issued 10 walks, five of them with two outs, and gave up its most runs in 40 games — just when its offense started clicking.

“Swung the bats better,” Mainieri said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t pitch well.”

The Tigers couldn’t hang on to a pair of two-run leads early as the Gators (19-9, 6-3) chased starter Zac Person with a four-run third, a nightmarish inning for reliever Nate Fury.

Fury, replacing Person with two on and two outs, threw seven straight balls to start his stint and walked in a run. He then allowed a two-run line drive to left. He did not record an out in three batters faced, and a 4-2 lead became a 6-4 deficit.

“Nate got thrown into an unfair situation,” Person said. “I kind of left him hanging, tossed him into the fire.”

LSU’s hitters, meanwhile, had their best day of the series — 10 hits — but they waned late, and shortstop Alex Bregman remained in the worst skid of his career.

He finished 0-for-4, was 0-for-12 for the series and hasn’t had a hit in his last 15 at-bats. He’s 4 for his last 41 dating to the start of SEC play 11 games ago. He has been made off limits to the media.

The Tigers scored three runs in the ninth, turning a rout into a more respectable result. It included a two-run homer from pinch-hitter Chris Sciambra.

They had five hits through the first two innings and just five the rest of the way, the second straight game the Tigers’ early offense disappeared. They did the same in a 6-2 loss in Game 2 on Saturday, and their offense was inept in a 2-1 loss in the series opener.

On Sunday, the re-emerging bats were overshadowed by a bullpen that unexpectedly collapsed. The pen shut out Georgia for nearly 12 innings in a 2-2 tie last Sunday, and LSU’s top six relievers had an ERA of 0.63 entering Tuesday’s loss at Tulane.

The same half-dozen hurlers Sunday allowed all of those 11 runs in patch work duty for missing Game 3 starter Kyle Bouman, out while recovering from an ankle sprain.

The group issued walks in three straight innings.

“They’re not perfect,” Mainieri said. “They’ve done a good job. They’re not all throwing 94 mph with pinpoint control. We’ve gotten a lot out of them considering. There’s not much margin for error.”

They blew up in the third.

In that 26-minute frame, Florida scored four runs on two hits and walked a whopping four times.

Many of it came with two outs.

Person, a reliever making his first start of his career, issued a leadoff walk to start the inning but retired the next two batters.

First baseman Tyler Moore then bobbled Taylor Gushue’s hard-hit grounder allowing Casey Turgeon to score from third. Turgeon stole third in a bang-bang play that Mainieri argued.

“If Tyler makes a play at first base,” Mainieri said, “(Person) gets through three innings and we’re up 4-2.”

Person walked the next batter before being yanked for Fury.

Fury’s outing followed his brief appearance in the Tulane loss, when he allowed back-to-back hits, including the game winner.

“We’ve got to get him back on track,” Mainieri said.

Fury’s replacement, Henri Faucheux, found trouble in the fifth.

Faucheux walked the first two, and then Parker Bugg allowed a single down the third-base line to score two. Richie Martin followed with his two-run screaming double to left-center.

“Once we get the bats going, we have to make good pitches,” outfielder Sean McMullen said. “Our pitchers have been doing a great job for weeks, and now we need to keep hitting and put everything together.”