Gators drop series opener at LSU

This was the game Florida wanted. The Gators had ace Jonathon Crawford matched up against LSU midweek starter Cody Glenn. It didn't take long for it to become obvious that Florida was still in for a fight. Glenn set a career high with six strikeouts while keeping the Gators off balance, allowing the LSU offense to score the winning run in the eighth inning and secure a 3-2 win.

Florida was right where it wanted to be, still in the game against one of the top teams in the country in one of the toughest environments to play in the country. The game was tied at two in the eighth inning with Florida's bullpen aces all still available.

With sophomore right-hander Ryan Harris on the mound, the Gators felt comfortable to stretch him out. LSU shortstop Alex Bregman led off by reaching on an infield single to deep shortstop. Mason Katz followed with a single, and the Tigers were in business.

Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan went to closer Johnny Magliozzi, who advanced both runners with a wild pitch before getting Raph Rhymes to pop up to second base. The Gators intentionally walked Christian Ibarra to load the bases before catcher Ty Ross gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning with a sacrifice fly to center field.

"Jonathon (Crawford) gave us a really good start," O'Sullivan said on his post game radio show. "Ryan came in and did a nice job, and Mags made some big pitches. We kept it to one run."

The run proved to be too many. LSU closer Chris Cotton came out of the bullpen for the ninth inning and struck out Vickash Ramjit and Harrison Bader while ending the game.

The Gators had their chances at the plate earlier in the game.

Cody Dent and Richie Martin got the threat going with back-to-back one-out singles in the third inning. After Casey Turgeon walked to load the bases, Florida had its best hitter -- Taylor Gushue -- hitting in a big situation.

Gushue got the ball off the end of his bat and tapped back to Glenn on the mound, who threw home to get the first out before the catcher threw to first. The ball bounced in and out of Katz's glove at first base, allowing Martin to score from second base on the play and give the Gators a 1-0 lead.

"Cody's bunt was outstanding, and Richie's was a really good one as well," O'Sullivan said. "Playing on the road against one of the best teams in the country, you're not going to get those opportunities very often. That was our shot. We just weren't able to do it. We probably needed to do more in that situation."

The 3-6 spots in the Florida order ended the game 0-for-15 at the plate.

When the Gators did score that one run, Crawford's control left him. He walked the first two hitters of the bottom of the third inning and later allowed an RBI single to Katz to tie the score. JaCoby Jones gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead with a solo home run in the fourth inning.

The Gators were able to tie the game in the seventh inning. After a two-out single from Josh Tobias, Harrison Bader lined a double into the left-center field gap. Tobias was stealing on the pitch and was able to beat the throw home to tie the game at two.

But that's all the offense could do.

The Gators now are faced with the challenge of facing right-hander Aaron Nola. The sophomore has thrown three straight complete games and is 8-0 with a 2.14 ERA on the season. In 80 innings, Nola has allowed just 54 hits and 12 walks while striking out 90 hitters and allowing just a .192 batting average against.

"He's not going to walk a lot of people," O'Sullivan said. "We're going to have to hit our way to win. He's an outstanding pitcher, but we'll come in here expecting to win and be a little more aggressive at the plate."

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