Maybe it would have been better for LSU if Thursday got rained out.
The Tiger baseball team (24-15, 9-7) got demolished by the Florida Gators (26-14, 7-9) Thursday night at Alex Box Stadium 16-9. After a scoreless first inning, the Gators tagged Ma’Khail Hilliard, starting in place of Zack Hess, for six runs in the second inning.
“Thirteen years I can’t remember we’ve had that happen to us, especially at home” Paul Mainieri said after the game. “It was just one of those games where we got in a big hole right out of the gate. You don’t want to use your top arms when you’re down 6-0 against a quality pitcher like that.”
Hilliard was replaced going into the third but the Gator onslaught didn’t stop there. Florida scored at least one run from the third through sixth innings. The Gators hit two separate three-run home runs to right field, one in the fourth by third baseman Cory Acton and the other in the fifth by shortstop Brady McConnell.
“It happens,” Hilliard said. “They saw my fastball a lot, took a lot of curveballs and was just looking to hit the fastball.”
While the LSU pitchers were getting knocked around, the Tiger bats weren’t much better. Florida’s starting pitcher Tommy Mace navigated through seven innings with relative ease. Mace allowed ten hits, nine singles, but struck out nine Tigers and stranded nine runners. Antoine Duplantis, playing centerfield in place of Zach Watson, went 4-5 with an RBI and Cade Beloso drove in the first two Tiger runs in the fifth inning. Daniel Cabrera hit an RBI triple in the seventh inning for the only extra base hit Mace allowed.
With Zack Hess recovering from a groin injury, LSU had to go with the Jack Wholestaff approach with little to no success. Every Tiger pitcher that took the mound gave up a run to Florida. Hilliard allowed six, Chase Costello pitched innings three and four and allowed four runs. Clay Moffit failed to record an out in the fifth and gave up three runs before being pulled for freshman right-hander Will Ripoll. Moffitt gave up McConnell’s three run home run and were the first earned runs Moffitt’s allowed all season.
“I thought Costello would come in and it was a good opportunity to establish himself and it didn’t happen,” Mainieri said. “Before you know it you’re down and it’s a big score.”
Aaron George pitched the eighth inning and allowed a solo shot to Gator catcher and nine-hole hitter Brady Smith. Smith single-handedly demolished LSU going 4-4 with a double, home run and scored two runs.
To LSU’s credit, the Tiger offense came alive late in the game. LSU scored multiple runs in the fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings. The problem was, the Tigers were down 13-0 before finally getting on the board. Other than some garbage time runs, there’s no positives to take from Thursday’s game. The LSU pitching staff allowed 16 runs, 20 hits, four home runs and walked seven. The loss marks LSU’s fourth in a row and five of its last six.
LSU is back on the field Friday at seven for game two. Cole Henry is LSU’s expected starter.
“The best thing we can do is just flush it and get ready for tomorrow,” Maineri said.