What hurts the most is that LSU gave the 2017 College World Series title to the Florida just as much as the Gators earned it.
Three costly mistakes and an eighth inning collapse gave Florida a 6-1 victory over LSU to clinch the 2017 NCAA Baseball Championship. Going into the game, LSU seemed to have the pitching advantage in the last two games, but mental mistakes put LSU too far behind to catch up to Tyler Dyson and the Florida Gators.
Florida opened the scoring with three straight baserunners in the top of the first inning, the first of which came on an error by Nick Coomes as he botched fielding the ground ball to first base from Deacon Liput. Liput moved to third on the single from Dalton Gutrie before scoring on JJ Schwarz’s single into left. A flyout moved the runners into scoring position with one out, but Poché was able to worm his way out of the inning with only one run allowed.
LSU tagged some balls hard in the early parts of the game, but a vicious wind was blowing in and killed every ball the Tigers put a smash into, including a blast from Michael Papierski that would have been a no-doubt home run that instead died in the infield.
Coomes committed a second error when Poché caught Nick Horvath stealing, but Coomes again bobbled the transition from ball to glove on the throw to second, allowing him to advance safely. Deacon Liput immediately made the error from Coomes hurt with a single up the middle to score Horvath. In two innings Nick Coomes had committed two errors that would both score and put LSU in an unearned 2-0 hole. He would be subbed defensively for Jake Slaughter in the next inning.
“As a pitcher the only thing you can control is once you let go of the baseball, you can't control anything that happens after that,” LSU’s senior left hander said. “So you know, I just stuck with that. And guys have been making plays for me all year and my entire career. Unfortunately kicked the ball around a little bit, but these guys -- I'd go to war with all these guys on this team.”
“Like Coach said, we just came up a little bit short. And that's it.”
Florida loaded the bases with one out again in the bottom of third, but Poché was able to escape out of the inning unscathed. After that Poché would stop the bleeding for the rest of his outing but the rough start saw him leave the game after 5.2 innings. In his final appearance for LSU, Poché allowed no earned runs on seven hits while walking one and striking out three. By all accounts, Jared Poché did not deserve to lose this game.
It just so happened that Tyler Dyson was pitching lights out for Florida. Dyson went six strong innings where he only allowed a run on three hits and two walks while striking out two. LSU was given the advantage in the pitching matchup in games one and two, but Tyler Dyson pitched out of his mind all night for the Gators and used LSU’s mistakes to provide all the cover he needed.
“So you feel like Jared's pitching really well, and yet you've given them two runs,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “And their kid was really outstanding and he was overpowering us for five or six innings here. He was good. Seems like every pitcher Florida has throws mid-90s, good breaking balls. We were battling. And we weren't getting much to show for it.”
LSU’s lone run came in the seventh inning when it seemed like LSU flipped the game over. Zach Watson lead off the inning with a single to chase Dyson and bring in Florida closer Michael Byrne, who allowed a double to Josh Smith to score Watson and put LSU on the board. Jake Slaughter singled through the left side to put the tying run 90 feet away with no outs for Michael Papierski.
And then, disaster struck.
Papierski grounded into a double play with Slaughter out at second and Papierski out at first, and Smith crossed home plate on the play to give LSU the tying run. Except Jake Slaughter had what can best be described as the untimeliest of lapses in judgement and slid into shortstop Dalton Guthrie’s legs instead of the bag. It was ruled interference and Josh Smith was called back to third base where he would be stranded after a fly ball from Beau Jordan, ending the inning.
Out of all the errors committed in the game, it was the most inexcusable and wound up costing the Tigers the most.
In the eighth inning, LSU found themselves in the exact same situation after Robertson lead off with a single and steal followed by a Cole Freeman bunt single to once again put runners on the corners with no outs. Bryne struck out Duplantis for out number one before giving way to what would have been Florida’s game three starter Jackson Kowar. On the first pitch from Kowar, Deichmann grounded to second base and Kramer was off on contact. He was out at home plate by mere inches. Zach Watson also flied out to center to end the inning.
LSU had had runners on the corners with no outs twice late in the game and failed to score either one of them. LSU had the opportunity to save their season and they failed to grab it.
“We felt snake bit right there,” Mainieri said of the team’s blown chances late. “The way the game started defensively the first couple innings and those two innings offensively, just felt like it just maybe wasn't meant to be for us tonight.”
“As long as there are outs on the board we still believe, regardless of whether we're down 2-to-1 in the seventh and eighth or down 6-to-1 going into the last inning,” Robertson said of LSU’s blown chances. “You just always believe that you're going to find a way. And we had our opportunities in the seventh and eighth inning there. Unfortunately, it was a weird play in the seventh inning that I've never seen, and in the eighth inning we got it going again. We just didn't get it done. Those guys have blown them up in the same situation, again, they've been getting the job done their whole career, there's nobody else I'd rather have up there. Just didn't work out for us today.”
“And it's unfortunate, but we're holding our heads high.”
With LSU down to it’s final 3 outs, Florida struck the deathblow in the bottom half of the eighth inning. Jonathan India lead off the inning with a double and was followed by an Austin Langworthy walk. The runners were bunted over before pinch hitter Christian Hicks was hit to load the bases for Nick Hovarth, who was also hit to bring in a run to make it 3-1 Florida. Deacon Liput singled to score two and JJ Schwarz hit a sacrifice fly to make it 6-1 Gators, a lead too big for LSU to come back from with just three outs.
Chris Reid picked up a base hit, but the Tigers otherwise went in order to give Florida their first national championship in baseball.