Coleman went 8 innings, allowing 4 hits and one walk, and one batter got on by error. The Gator starter struggled, and the game really should have been a blowout, and probably would have been had we not hit into 2 line drive double plays and a line drive triple play.
The Tigers jumped out early as Ryan Schimpf hit a one-out solo home run in the 1st inning. Blake Dean followed up with a double, advanced on DJ Lemahieu's groundout, and then scored on a wild pitch. He would have scored anyway, and Hanover and Mitchell hit singles to give LSU runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs before Sean Ochinko grounded out to end the inning. LSU scored two runs, but left runs on the table for the first time in the game. It would not be the last.
A prior post described what happened in LSU half of the 2nd inning. With Florida starter Anthony Desclafini struggling and throwing a lot of pitches through the first inning, LSU looked to put up a big inning in the second. Catcher Micah Gibbs started it off with a long double that would have been a home run in the old Alex Box. Austin Nola hit a grounder that was mishandled, allowing Nola to reach base, but not allowing Gibbs to advance. It was looking like the Tigers would be charmed this inning, but we put the runners in motion and Mikie Mahtook hit a line drive that was snagged by the shortstop, who started a triple play due to the runners being way off their bases.
The play really bailed out the Florida pitcher, and allowed him to not only escape the inning without any runs scoring, but also to escape the inning without throwing many pitches. Desclafini had thrown over 25 pitches in the first inning, but escaped the second having pitched only 5 pitches. It was a golden opportunity to get in a couple runs and possibly run the Florida starter out of the game very early.
The third inning saw the Tigers again put baserunners on, as Schimpf and Dean led off with a pair of singles to give us runners at first and third. Lemahieu grounded out without advancing the runners, but Hanover drove home Schimpf with a groundout to give us our 3rd run of the game. Jared Mitchell walked and a wild pitch moved he and Dean into scoring position for Sean Ochinko, seeing himself at the plate for the second time with runners on and two outs. Again, he grounded out to end the inning.
In what was a growing theme for the night, the 4th inning again saw us threaten. Micah Gibbs led off with a walk and Austin Nola sacrificed him to second. Mikie Mahtook, whose plate appearances early in the game were cursed, again lined out to shortstop and again Micah Gibbs was picked off of second base. Mahtook had now hit for a cycle of sorts, hitting into a single out, 3 outs, and 2 outs in 4 innings of work. He would come to the plate one more time in the game, in the 7th inning, when he would hit a double that would have scored a run if not for another out on the bases that preceeded it.
While LSU's offense was doing a lot of work but getting only three runs to show for it, Louis Coleman as cruising on the mound. Through the first four innings, Coleman allowed 3 hits and recorded 4 strikeouts. No runner advanced past second base. He was throwing strikes and getting out of innings without throwing a lot of pitches. He was aided in the 3rd when Mikie Mahtook made a sensational play to end the inning on a fly ball with runners on 1st and 2nd. Had that ball dropped, Florida may have scored two runs on the play.
When Florida came up in their half of the 5th inning, Coleman began laboring a bit. He continued throwing strikes, but one Gator singled and another reached on an error by Lemahieu, giving Florida runners at first and second. Florida's Mike Mookey flied out to right field to end the threat.
Florida's bullpen came into the game in the 5th inning. Lefty Tony Davis pitched 3 outstanding innings that gave the Gators a chance to get back into the game. Going 1-2-3 in both the 5th and the 6th innings. Davis went through the heart of the Tiger lineup without allowing any Tiger to get on and without allowing any batter to hit the ball to the outfield. It was a masterful two innings, but Florida couldn't do anything with it.
Coleman was too good. He started having some control problems in the 6th inning, running two hitters to 3-ball counts, walking one of the two. He was aided by a pickoff and got out of the 6th without any runner reaching scoring position. In the 7th, Coleman again struggled to throw strikes, again running two Gators to 3-ball counts, but not actually letting any of them on base.
LSU's half of the 7th inning saw us finally get to Tony Davis. The lefty had not pitched a lof of innings this year, and the Gator manager may have been expecting too much asking him to go 3 innings. Gibbs led off the 7th with another near-homerun double. Again, Gibbs' double would mean nothing, as Austin Nola would hit a short fly ball to centerfield and Gibbs would be caught at 3rd on his attempt to tag up. It was the 4th out the Tigers would make on the bases. Mahtook followed up with a double that surely would have scored Gibbs. After a walk to Schimpf, Blake Dean grounded out to end the threat.
Louis Coleman's 8th inning may have been his best inning of the night, as he struck out the 9th place and 1st place hitters to start the inning, and induced a grounder to end the inning. Mainieri had gotten Chad Jones ready to pitch to the left-handed hitting Avery Barnes, Florida's best contact hitter, but decided to stick with Coleman when Barnes came to bat. With Coleman over 110 pitches by now, he got the last two outs of the inning.
The Gators made a pitching change in the 8th inning and LSU finally broke through with another run. Lemahieu led off with a double against new pitcher Jeff Barfield. He scored on a wild pitch followed by a throwing error by the catcher. Ochinko would deliver a two-out single, and Gibbs was intentionally walked after pinch runner Stephen McGee stole second. Austin Nola struck out to end the threat.
Matty Ott pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to get the save.
LSU has taken 2 of 2 from Florida. These are two big wins for the Tigers, as it puts us firmly in the driver's seat for the conference regular season championship. We entered the weekend tied with Florida and Ole Miss, and now we've beaten Florida twice and Ole Miss has dropped the first two games of its series to Mississippi State. Our magic number for an outright win of the conference is 3, but only 2 to get a tie and we hold all the tie-breakers.
The series concludes at noon today. Actually, I suppose it will conclude at or near 3:00pm, but the concluding game starts at noon. LSU will go with Austin Ross. Florida will go with whoever still has an arm. The Gators have two outstanding relievers who have not been used up, but will need to find about 6 or 7 innings of good pitching to get to them.