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Scott Moss propels Gators in shut out of LSU

The possum met his match Saturday. The No. 10 LSU (42-18) Tiger Baseball team, living vicariously off the karma from a run-in with one of the marsupials a few weeks ago, ran into Florida sophomore pitcher Scott Moss who threw six shutout innings with seven strikeouts in only his fifth start of the season. His strong start pushed the No. 1 Gators (47-12) to a 1-0 win over LSU to advance to the Championship Game of the SEC Baseball Tournament.

LSU’s Caleb Gilbert was impressive as well giving up just one run in the fifth when freshman Jonathan India (2-for-2) doubled on a ball that looked like it jammed him inside but found fair ground just inside the left field line scoring Dalton Guthrie who led off the inning with a single. It was the only run scored in a game against a team that has only lost one 1-run game in the last eight it has played.

India wanted to talk about Moss after the game.

“He was throwing first-pitch strikes,” the freshman third baseman said. “He competed today. It’s the best I’ve seen him all season. It was a joy to watch and to play behind him all day.”

Moss went after batters and nearly every one he faced had to deal with a strike on the first pitch. Staying ahead on the count gave him the confidence to keep going.

“Just attack them with first-pitch strikes… I did that the whole day,” Moss said after the game. “It was a good all-around day for me. I felt like I could go all nine. My arm has never been healthier. Every pitch I was throwing was honestly better than my high school stuff. I think I’ve progressed enough to start any game and continue all nine innings.”

This was the fifth matchup for Florida against LSU in the last two weeks as the Tigers took the weekend series in Baton Rouge last weekend two games to three and met the Gators in Florida’s first game of the tournament. LSU won that game 5-3 in 14 innings which amounted to the longest game (5 hours 7 minutes) in SEC Tournament history and finished just before 3 a.m. Eastern Time.

Florida got 1.2 scoreless innings from Dane Dunning who pitched six innings in the 5 hour affair on Wednesday. After giving up a two-out single, Kirby Snead was inserted for the lefty-lefty matchup and forces a pop up to short to end the 8th. Closer Shaun Anderson came on in the ninth for his 12th save of the season.  

Dane Dunning pitched two scoreless innings in relief for the Gators and Shaun Anderson pitched a scoreless ninth for his 12th save of the season. Florida pitchers totaled 11 strikeouts including seven from Moss.

“Unbelievable game… it was exciting,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “We’ve played LSU five times in a week-and-a-half. The games have been exciting and really good. I’m really impressed with LSU. They’ve gotten so much better through the course of the year. Their offense is really clicking right now. Coming into today they’ve won the last 14 of 15 (games). To be able to shut them out is hard to do in any year, especially this year. They are competitive.

“Our pitching was outstanding. I’m really happy for Scott Moss. It’s been a long road for him. He had that surgery his freshman year. The timing of it was off. It was in March of his freshman year. You fast forward 12 months, and we made a decision as a staff to take it slow and not rush him back last year. For him to have this opportunity and take advantage of it like he did was awesome. It was great for Kirby (Snead) to get an important out there and then Shaun (Anderson) was really good and had to make some big pitches in the middle of the order. I anticipate seeing LSU down the road at some point. Give them a lot of credit.”

“I think, for (Moss), it’s been a long road. This is an outing he’ll never forget. It’s been very difficult for him. There are a lot of lonely days in that training room. Certainly, he has never been forgotten, but sometimes there have been some long days. For him to have this opportunity, and to do what he did against LSU, it’s a memory he will never forget. This is a huge confidence boost for him. Going into the day, it was a big outing for him for a lot of reasons — from a team perspective, for his role moving forward, for the draft, and let’s be honest, it was a big day for him. I’m proud of him. He has been a great teammate. He was on a 70 pitch count. He took advantage of his pitch count and got him through six innings.”

With one game left and five days until the next start, the big question out there is if O’Sullivan will go to his ace Friday night starter Logan Shore who has sat out the tournament because of a stomach bug but could go if they needed him.

With four games in four days and the 14 inning matchup on day one, the staff has thinned a bit and without Shore going it would certainly be a handful of guys that would be expected to contribute. O’Sullivan wasn’t giving anything away after the game, even if he knew what he was going to do in that regard.

“We’re excited to play one more day,” The Florida skipper said. “I have no idea about pitching yet, so we’ll figure it out tonight.”

The Championship Game Sunday against No. 2 Texas A&M will air at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2. It will mark the third year in a row that Florida will play in the final game of the tournament. The previous two were against LSU. It is the 14th time Florida has appeared in the Championship Game and the Gators are only the fourth program to make it to the game three consecutive years (LSU 2x, Vanderbilt, and Alabama). 

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