LSU may employ the nation’s top ranked baseball team, and that baseball team may employ the nation’s top pitcher, but it’s time for all of them to geaux home.
Onto the SEC Championship Game go the mysteriously hot Gators of Florida after dispatching the Tigers, the clear cut favorite to win the SEC Tournament, if such a thing exists in the wild world of conference tournaments. It’s the second straight year Florida will play in the SEC Championship Game, and they’ll get a rematch with Vanderbilt, who they took two of three from a few weeks ago in Nashville.
Just getting to the championship game has to make the trip to Hoover a success, though. The win over the nation’s top ranked team locked up a national seed for Florida if their win over Arkansas yesterday didn’t. And most amazingly, they did it despite playing some of the worst baseball they’ve played all year.
Shortstop Richie Martin made a rather uncharacteristic throwing error, and made another mistake in trying to go to Dalton Guthrie at second on a force when he had a better shot at throwing the runner out at first. Florida left ten runners on base, including five in scoring position, and left the bases loaded twice. And these stats don’t even account for the blunderful display of base running the Gators exhibited in the eighth inning. JJ Schwarz came to bat with runners on first and second and no outs, and promptly launched a ball into the left field gap. This easily scored Josh Tobias, who was on second, but Peter Alonso, who was on first, ignored the “STAY” sign from the third base coach, rounded third and was then caught in a rundown because he was so badly beaten- and then Schwarz decided to wander off second base, and was picked off for your typical 8-5-2-5-4 double play.
But like good teams do, Florida was able to get the winning run back and make that “How Not To Run The Bases” video clip nothing but a teaching moment. We can all thank Gator catcher Mike Rivera for that.
HOME RUN!!! Mike Rivera blasts one out of the park and the Gators lead LSU 2-1 in the 9th!!! https://t.co/3JzxC79epl
— #InAllKindsOfWeather (@AllKindsWeather) May 24, 2015
But while Rivera will get the credit- which he definitely deserves, don’t get me wrong- the Gator bullpen was the clear unsung hero of this game. Starting pitcher Alex Faedo got roughed up a bit, and didn’t even make it past the third inning. No worries. Kirby Snead and Taylor Lewis stepped up and combined to throw six and a third innings of shutout ball, allowing three measly singles and never allowing a Tiger runner to get to third- being down 1-0 for much of the time.
Florida’s offense was flustered most of the day by LSU starter Alex Lange, who combined a blazing fastball that he could throw low in the strike zone with a nasty breaking ball to keep Florida off the scoreboard. But Lange got tired after throwing 100 pitches in seven innings (and LSU didn’t really need this game, so why waste his arm) and the Tigers brought in relievers- who the frustrated Gator hitters lit up in the last two innings.
Clutch is what Florida has been all year, most notably against Auburn, but throughout the year as a whole. And while the NCAA Tournament is looming in the near future, it’s time to see if Florida can be clutch one more time tomorrow and bring home an SEC Championship.