Win boosts Gators to SEC Tourney Championship

Freshman Mike Rivera snapped a 1-1 tie with a leadoff homer in the ninth inning as fourth-seeded Florida (43-16) defeated top-seeded and top-ranked LSU (48-11), 2-1, on Saturday afternoon in the second semifinal of the 2015 SEC Tournament.

In halting the Tigers’ nine-game SEC Tournament winning streak, the Gators will face second-seeded Vanderbilt (42-18) tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2 seeking their seventh SEC Tournament crown.

After Florida tied the game at a run apiece in the eighth on an RBI double by freshman J.J. Schwarz (2-for-4) that scored senior Josh Tobias, junior right-hander Taylor Lewis (6-1) came through with a shutdown inning. Rivera stepped to the plate in the ninth and launched a 1-2 offering from sophomore righty Jesse Stallings (1-2) to left field for his third round-tripper of the season. Lewis went back out for the home part of the inning and set down the Tigers 1-2-3 to complete a 4.1-inning stint in which he permitted one hit and zero runs to the 14 batters he faced.

In the first inning, Florida mounted a two-out rally but was unable to score, as junior Richie Martin walked and stole second base, Tobias was hit by a pitch and sophomore Peter Alonso earned a free pass from Alex Lange, the SEC’s Freshman of the Year. However, the righty had Schwarzfly out to left field.

LSU broke the ice in the second inning on a two-out RBI single by senior Jared Foster. Senior Kade Scivicque (2-for-4) opened the frame by doubling down the left-field line against freshman starter Alex Faedo and junior Andrew Stevenson (2-for-4) singled through the left side for runners on the corners with none out. Faedo responded by having both junior Chris Chinea and senior Chris Sciambra pop up to Martin before Foster sliced a base-knock into left field to plate Scivicque. Faedo escaped further trouble with a strikeout of junior Mark Laird.

Sophomore Jake Fraley reached on an error by Martin to start the Tigers’ third and stole second base before Faedo had junior Alex Bregman fly out. The right-hander picked Fraley off of second base and yielded back-to-back singles to senior Conner Hale (2-for-4) and Scivicque. Sophomore left-hander Kirby Snead replaced Faedo (2.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R) and stranded the runners by striking out Stevenson.

The Gators loaded the bases for the second time in the fourth inning but kept at bay by Lange. Alonso drew a leadoff walk and junior Harrison Bader (3-for-4) collected his second hit of the day with a single before being erased on a fielder’s choice by freshman Jeremy Vasquez. Mike Rivera walked to fill the bags and Lange struck out freshman Dalton Guthrie.

LSU had a pair of runners aboard and two down in the fifth, when Lewis was summoned from the bullpen for Snead. The righty had a grounder by Scivicque force Hale at second base to keep the Gators down a run.

Vasquez began Florida’s seventh with a single into right field and moved to second on a wild pitch when Rivera struck out. After Guthrie walked, Lange countered with consecutive strikeouts of sophomore Buddy Reed and Martin.

Schwarz tied the game in the eighth with a double to bring home Tobias. Freshman Zac Person replaced Lange (7.0 IP, 5 H, 6 BB, 7 K) at the start of the frame and surrendered a single to Tobias and a walk to Alonso before freshman Hunter Newman was called upon. Schwarz belted a double off the wall in left field but the Tigers were able to turn a double play by throwing out Alonso at third base and Schwarz at second base on the play.

The Gators will play second-seeded Vanderbilt (42-18) for the fourth time this season at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow on ESPN2. The game can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Jeff Cardozo and Mick Hubert and will be shown on the SEC Network and available through WatchESPN.

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