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Thursday April 5, 2012No. 7 LSU Edges No. 1 Baseball, 7-6, In Series Opener

Gainesville, Fla.

No. 7 LSU (24-6/7-3 SEC) withstood a ninth-inning rally by No. 1 Florida (24-6/6-4 SEC) to claim the opener of the three-game weekend series with a 7-6 victory on Thursday night in front of 4,487 fans at McKethan Stadium. The Tigers notched their seventh-straight win, snapped the Gators’ home winning streak at 15 games and handed UF its third setback in a row.


With Florida down by a run entering its final at bat, senior Daniel Pigott (Ormond Beach, Fla.) (3-for-5) led off with a single into center field off junior Nick Goody. Freshman Casey Turgeon (Palm Beach, Fla.) laid down a sacrifice bunt to move his teammate into scoring position but wound up safe at first base on a dropped throw by senior Grant Dozar. With runners on the corners and none out, Goody came through with a strikeout of junior Mike Zunino (Cape Coral, Fla.). Although senior Preston Tucker (Tampa, Fla.) lofted a fly ball to the warning track in right field for the second out, Pigott remained on third base. Goody then had junior Brian Johnson (Cocoa Beach, Fla.) (2-for-5, two runs) pop up behind the plate to end the game and improve the Tigers to 6-2 in one-run games during SEC play. Goody collected his third save to preserve the victory for sophomore starter Kurt McCune (2-3).


LSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Johnson (4-1) in the first inning. Sophomore JaCoby Jones (3-for-4, two RBI, two runs) opened the game with a double into left center field, junior Mason Katz walked on four pitches with one down and junior Raph Rhymes was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Senior Austin Nola brought home Jones with a base-hit into right field and junior Alex Edward (2-for-4) roped a two-run single into left field that scored Katz and Rhymes. Johnson had Dozar pop up a bunt attempt and had a grounder by senior Jody Snikeris (2-for-3) force Edward at second base to end the frame.


The Gators closed to within 3-2 in the second inning on RBI double by junior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) (3-for-4, career-high four RBI) and a sacrifice fly by junior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.). Johnson opened the stanza with his fourth double that fell between the left and center fielder and freshman Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) (2-for-4) poked a one-out single into right field for runners on the corners. Ramjit doubled down the right-field line to score Johnson and push Gushue to third. Dent’s first sacrifice fly of the season to right field brought home Gushue and Ramjit was caught off second base on the relay throw to complete the inning.  


LSU used four-consecutive two-out hits in the fourth to seize a 6-2 lead. Johnson had retired 10-straight Tigers before Snikeris singled up the middle with two down. Freshman Jared Foster followed with a base-hit into left center and Jones plated both of his teammates with his sixth double into right center before senior Tyler Hanover delivered an RBI single into center field to increase the Bayou Bengals’ advantage to four runs.


Tucker and Johnson began the home part of the frame with back-to-back singles and a one-out error by first baseman Dozar on a grounder by Gushue loaded the bases. A fielder’s choice by Ramjit scored Tucker with the Gators for a 6-3 count and Ramjit stole second with two down before McCune had Dent line out to shortstop to end the inning.  


Sophomore Keenan Kish (Worcester, Pa.) replaced Johnson (4.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R) prior to the fifth and Rhymes reached on a leadoff throwing error by Dent. Zunino gunned down Rhymes attempting to steal second base, Kish had Nola ground out and then struck out Edward.


McCune scattered seven hits and yielded three runs (two earned) over five innings before being replaced by junior Chris Cotton, who set down the Gators in order.  


After Kish retired LSU in succession, Ramjit had his second double of the night with one down in the seventh and Cotton responded by striking out freshman pinch hitter Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.). Pigott narrowed the Gators’ deficit to 6-4 with a two-out single into center field and Cotton fanned Turgeon to keep the Tigers ahead by a pair of runs.


LSU regained its three-run margin in the eighth to take a 7-4 lead. Edward began the inning with his first double of the season to left field and senior Greg Larson (Longwood, Fla.) took over for Kish (season-high 3.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R). Dozar had a bunt single for runners on the corners and Snikeris lofted a sacrifice fly into left field to score Edward. A two-out single up the middle by Jones prompted another pitching change, as freshman Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.) came in for Larson (0.2 IP, 2 H) and induced a grounder by Hanover that forced Jones at second base to end the frame.


Ramjit came through with a two-out, two-run single to bring the Gators within 7-6 in the bottom of the inning. Tucker reached on a one-out error by Dozar and was forced at second on a fielder’s choice by Johnson. Fontana drew a walk and Gushue legged out an infield single to cause a pitching change. Sophomore Nick Rumbelow entered for Cotton (2.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R) with the bases full and Ramjit roped a base-knock into left center to score Johnson and Fontana. Rumbelow had senior pinch hitter Jeff Moyer (Winter Springs, Fla.) hit a comebacker to the mound to preserve the Tigers’ one-run advantage.


“We just have to bounce back and be ready for tomorrow,” Ramjit said. “Hopefully, we get some good at-bats from everybody and keep swinging as a team. We just need to put some pieces together right now. We’re just working to win tomorrow, take things day-by-day and come out with a positive attitude.”


Junior Austin Maddox (Jacksonville, Fla.) put down LSU in order in the top of the inning to set the stage for the dramatic bottom of the ninth. Florida held a 12-11 advantage in hits and fell to 17-2 at McKethan Stadium this season with the defeat. In a matchup of right-handers, sophomore Jonathon Crawford (Okeechobee, Fla.) (2-1, 5.28) will start tomorrow’s game two against LSU sophomore Kevin Gausman (5-0, 2.27). The contest will be carried live on Fox Sports Florida.


Game Notes

·         The Gators have dropped the opener of their last three SEC series to No. 6 South Carolina, No. 16 Ole Miss and No. 7 LSU.

·         Florida’s last home loss before tonight came to No. 16 Cal State Fullerton on Feb. 19, 8-5.

·         The Orange and Blue fell to 0-3 all-time on ESPNU Thursday Night SEC Baseball Game of the Week.

·         Junior Mike Zunino had his team-leading ninth double in his first at bat.

·         Senior Daniel Pigott extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the fifth inning.

·         Junior Vickash Ramjit had two doubles in a game for the second time in his career, also April 29, 2011, against Ole Miss.

·         Six of Ramjit’s 14 hits this season have gone for extra bases (three doubles, three homers).

·         Sophomore Keenan Kish entered the game with three innings pitched this season and matched that total.

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