Three Gator hurlers managed to silence the LSU offense and their 10,202 supporters at Alex Box Stadium for nine innings on Saturday night, shutting out the Tigers en route to a 1-0 series-clinching win.
Hudson Randall (3-0) improved his Southeastern Conference best ERA to 0.85 with six and one-third masterful innings. He lived in the strike zone all night, scattering eight hits and striking out four without a walk.
“I don’t have another memory of a guy throwing as well as he did,” said Mikie Mahtook. “He kept us off balance. He got a lot of weak contact.”
LSU (16-3, 0-2) collected nine hits in the ball game but left 10 on base. Randall erased Tiger threats in the first, fourth and fifth innings.
Mahtook fanned with two runners in scoring position and one out in the first, and Austin Nola followed with a bouncer to third to leave runners on second and third in the first inning for the second time in as many nights.
Mason Katz reached second with a two-out single and a steal in the fourth, but Grant Dozar grounded out to end the inning.
Ty Ross led off the fifth with a single and advanced to second on a passed ball, but Randall got Raph Rhymes to ground out to leave Ross 180 feet from the plate.
LSU’s best chance came in the 7th when Ross and JaCoby Jones hit back-to-back two out singles to chase Randall.
Kevin O’Sullivan summoned Greg Larson from the bullpen, and he immediately hit Trey Watkins to load the bases.
Then Larson got Rhymes to roll softly to first to extinguish the threat.
Mahtook singled with one out in the 8th, and that’s when O’Sullivan went to another of his seemingly endless supply of arms. This time is was left-handed fireballer Nick Maronde.
Nola flied out on the first pitch Maronde threw. Mason Katz drew a walk, and then Maronde struck out pinch-hitter Alex Edward to leave the two runners on.
With the Tigers down to their last frame, Maronde overpowered Jordy Snikeris, Jones and Watkins with blazing fastballs to record the save and cement the first shutout of the Tigers since 2007.
“That’s probably the best pitching staff I’ve seen in my career,” said LSU coach Paul Maineiri. “Every kid they bring out of the pen is better than the one before him.”
The second one-run loss in as many nights overshadowed another brilliant start from a Tiger freshman.
Kevin Gausman allowed a walk and a Daniel Pigott RBI double to start the game, but battled through eight marvelous innings while his offense failed to plate a run.
“I kinda thought, ‘Well next inning we’ll get ‘em,’ but it ended up not happening,” Gausman said.
Game three is scheduled for noon on Sunday. Senior Ben Alsup will take the ball for the Tigers, who haven’t been swept at home since April of 2006.
Florida will run out another talented starter. Karsten Whitson, the ninth overall selection of the 2010 draft, will go for the Gators.