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Friday May 8, 2009No. 3 LSU Takes Opener From No. 9 Baseball

Baton Rouge, La.

No. 3 LSU (37-13/17-8 SEC) moved into first place in the Southeastern Conference standings with a 10-1 victory over No. 9 Florida (34-16/16-9 SEC) in front of a record 10,230 fans at raucous Alex Box Stadium on Friday night. The Tigers are now a game in front of the Gators and No. 7 Ole Miss, which fell at home to Mississippi State, 6-5. Despite the setback, UF maintained its two-game lead in the Eastern Division, as No. 13 Georgia dropped its series opener to Vanderbilt, 10-2. Junior Blake Dean (2-for-4) tallied four RBI and sophomore DJ LeMahieu (3-for-4) clubbed a three-run homer to support seven strong innings from sophomore righty Anthony Ranaudo (6-3).


The Gators had a prime opportunity to open the scoring in the first inning against Ranaudo, when they had runners on first and third with one out. Junior Jonathan Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (2-for-4) singled up the middle with one down, stole second base and went to third on an error on the relay throw. After freshman Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) drew a walk, Ranaudo had sophomore Josh Adams (Jacksonville, Fla.) ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.


Florida loaded the bases with two down in the second but again came up empty. After Ranaudo retired the first two hitters, junior Buddy Munroe (Miami, Fla.) (2-for-3) and senior Teddy Foster (Jacksonville, Fla.) had back-to-back singles and junior Mike Mooney (Loxahatchee, Fla.) drew a walk. Ranaudo rebounded to strike out senior Avery Barnes (High Springs , Fla.) to keep the game scoreless.


The Tigers threatened in the home part of the second by loading the bases against senior Stephen Locke (Tampa, Fla.) (3-1), only to be held at bay. LeMahieu opened the frame with a single into left and freshman Tyler Hanover followed with a single that eluded a leap by Mooney at shortstop. Locke rebounded to whiff juniors Sean Ochinko (2-for-4) and Jared Mitchell. The decision to walk sophomore Micah Gibbs intentionally paid off, as a fielder’s choice by freshman Austin Nola forced Gibbs at second base to end the frame.


LSU drew first blood in the third stanza on an RBI grounder by Dean and a two-out double by Ochinko. Freshman Mikie Mahtook (2-for-4, two runs) started things off with an infield hit to second that Adams made a diving stop on but threw away, enabling the runner to occupy second base. A grounder by junior Ryan Schmipf advanced Mahtook to third and he scored on Dean’s grounder to first base. LeMahieu singled up the middle, advanced to second on a wild pitch and then Hanover earned a free pass. Ochinko stroked a two-bagger into center field that brought across LeMahieu but the Gators gunned down Hanover at the dish on a strike from Adams to Foster to hold the deficit at two runs.


The hosts erupted for four runs in the fourth, highlighted by a two-run blast by Dean, to build a 6-0 lead. Mitchell and Gibbs began the inning with consecutive singles and were sacrificed into scoring position by Nola. Mahtook laced an RBI single into left field that scored Mitchell and a fielding error by Barnes allowed Gibbs to increase the Tigers’ lead to four runs and Mahtook to occupy third. Soon after, Dean belted his 12th homer with two down to right field for a six-run cushion.


Barnes extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a one-out single in the fifth and Pigott followed with his second double of the season to the wall in center field. A grounder by Tucker, resulting in his team-leading 63rd RBI, narrowed the gap to 6-1.


The Tigers added four more runs in the sixth to put the game out of reach. Nola drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on Schimpf’s one-out single on a hit-and-run. An RBI base-knock into right field by Dean put the Tigers ahead, 7-1, and ended the night for Locke. Over 5.1 innings, the southpaw surrendered career highs in hits (12) and runs (nine), with five strikeouts and three walks. With freshman Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) on the hill, Schimpf and Dean executed a double steal and LeMahieu bashed a three-run jack into the left-field bleachers for 10-1 count. It was his fourth round-tripper of the year, first in league action.


Ranaudo scattered six hits over seven innings and registered seven strikeouts before giving way to seniors Nolan Cain and Buzzy Haydel, who each threw one scoreless frame. Redshirt freshman Justin Poovey (Granite Falls, N.C.) tossed a pair of scoreless innings and notched three K for the Gators, who were out-hit by a 13-6 margin.


Freshman righty Anthony DeSclafani (Freehold, N.J.) (5-1, 3.58) will try to even the series tomorrow at 8 p.m. against Tiger senior right-hander Louis Coleman (9-2, 2.71). The game will be carried live on Sun Sports.




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