It was supposed to be the heavyweight matchup of the season, and it did not disappoint. The matchup of JR RHP Aces in Alex Lange and Alex Faedo was the intense pitcher's duel everyone predicted, but in the end the Tigers blinked first and that was all the Gators needed to start this series off with a 1-0 win.
Lange and Faedo both started off strong, though Lange was a bit better in the early innings. Faedo gave up a hit in 5 of the first 6 innings, twice to the lead off batter, but LSU was never able to move them around. Faedo marked 7Ks in his 7 innings of work, to match his 7 hits and 0 walks. He did have to leave the contest a bit early, exiting after 7 because he had already reached 114 pitches. Lange had a better outing in every way, except for the one category that truly matters. He faced the minimum through 3 of the first 4 innings, then got himself into one hell of a jam in the Gator 5th. Back-to-back ground ball hits started off the inning, then Lange misplayed a sac bunt to the 1B side and the Gators had bases loaded with nobody out. In what was the biggest threat Lange has face yet this year, he buckled down, struckout the next 2 batters, and ended the threat on a line drive that Cole Freeman played excellently.
The Gators would come right back swinging, though, and made the important blemish on Lange's night in the next inning. UF 2B Deacon Liput led of the 6th with a double to deep right, and the Gators, sensing the lack of opportunities left in the night, bunted him over to 3rd and took a sac fly to bring him home. Lange struck out the next batter to end the inning, but UF had gotten all they would need for the night. Lange pitched the remainder of the game for LSU and would only give up 1 more hit as he threw 109 pitches over 8 innings, but the Tigers could not find a run to back him up.
Faedo had been mowing down Tigers all night, and LSU failed to capitalize on the rare times it got a runner into scoring position. Immediately after the Gators scored, LSU had something going with 2 1-out singles in the 7th, but the bottom of the order was unable to do anything with it, with DH Brennan Breaux striking out and C Michael Papierski hitting a short fly ball to center field. Faedo had been chased to start the 8th, but the powerful top of LSU's order only managed to get a walk. The last chance in the 9th started off well with a 3B Josh Smith walk. CF Zach Watson appeared to be attempting to bunt him over, but a wild pitch advanced Smith to 2nd and Watson changed his approach at the plate. It was unfortunate timing, as home plate ump Greg Street suddenly began to forget what his strikezone looked like. Watson, 1B Jake Slaughter, and Breaux all struck out as Street called the same low and outside pitches to the same location both balls and strikes within all three at-bats, infuriating both the LSU batters and Coach Mainieri, who got about as animated as a manager can get on the steps of a dugout without inducing the traditional automatic ejection for arguing balls and strikes with an ump.
Right after the finish, UF reliever Tyler Dyson had some untelevised words for the LSU dugout. Add to that a few earlier instances of trash talking during the game and it's clear these teams hate each other very much. LSU will have to keep their composure on the road if they want to come back and pull the series win out of this weekend. The one good thing about the night was Lange going the distance, saving LSU's depleted bullpen for another day. As sad as it was to lose a 1 run outing from Lange, the weekend is still very much in LSU's grasp.
They'll get back at it at 2pm, making their first TV appearance of the year on The Deuce ESPN2.