Slumps come in a lot of different forms and usually not at the most ideal times.
For No. 5/6-ranked LSU and an offense that has been among the most productive in the SEC all season, that times seems to have arrived and the form is, well, not real appealing.
For the second day in a row, the Tigers’ bats were lethargic and cold to the touch in the most inopportune times against Florida pitcher Brady Singer. To make matters worse, LSU’s Jared Poche finally looked human for the first time all season as the 12th-ranked Gators steamrolled to an 8-1 victory.
Florida clinched the series victory with the verdict on Saturday after winning the opener on Friday in a 1-0 pitchers’ duel.
Game 2 was nowhere close to as scintillating, the result of Poche’s struggles and the moribund Tiger bats.
The Gators (16-8, 2-3 SEC) didn’t run away and hide with big innings, at least not early on. Instead it was more of a slow leak, with Poche contributing by leaving the spigot on.
After a scoreless 1st inning, Florida chipped away at Poche (5-1) for single runs in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th innings and that was ample cushion for Brady Singer.
The unraveling for LSU (17-7, 3-2) began uncharacteristically on multiple fronts when Kramer Robertson’s throw across the diamond after he fielded a ball deep in the hole was high, allowing J.J Schwarz to reach safely. Poche exacerbated the error when he hot Nelson Maldonado with an 0-and-2 pitch and then surrendered a ground-ball single through the middle to load the bases.
Poche fired a first pitch strike to left-hand swinging Christian Hicks but then nicked him with a pitch to force in the first run. That was the Gators got at that stage as Poche worked out of trouble and left the bases loaded.
His fortunes changed after that, though.
The second run was more about Florida execution, as Deacon Liput led off with a single, stole second with one out, moved to third on a flyout and dashed home on Maldonado’s two-out single.
The Gators extended their lead when Ryan Larson made a leadoff hit hurt when he sprinted home on Poche’s two-out wild pitch in the 4th. Schwarz and Maldonado teamed up with the final run with back-to-back doubles to start the 5th.
While Florida converted at least some of the chances Poche handed out, the Tigers again whiffed on most of theirs.
As was the case Friday, LSU kept getting men on base but then did nothing in those situations. The Tigers’ lone run came in the 4th inning after Antoine Duplantis led off with a double – he was the only LSU man to get on to open an at-bat – and scored on consecutive ground balls to the right side.
Although those swings were productive, they were also emblematic of how the two games vs. Florida have gone for LSU: The Tigers are a meager 1-for-29 with runners on base, 0-for-16 with a man in scoring position.
Not that Singer allowed a lot of runners to get past first base.
The Gators’ sophomore righty was even better than ace Alex Faedo the night before with a complete-game 6-hitter. Singer struck out only 4 but didn’t issue any walks and rarely broke a sweat.
The six hits came from six different players and Singer balanced out his mastery with 12 ground-ball outs and 9 in the air.
Meanwhile, a Florida offense that has scuffled most of the season found some success.
The Gators never went in order and produced 10 hits – 7 from the middle of the batting order (Schwarz 2-for-5, Maldonado 2-for-2, Rivera 3-for-3). That trio also accounted for 5 RBIs and 5 runs scored.
Whatever hopes LSU had of a late rally evaporated when the bullpen faltered in the Florida 8th inning. Austin Bain and Todd Peterson were solid in a combined 3 innings but Todd Peterson Hunter Kiel and Collin Strall proved to be leaky and gave up three runs in the Gators’ final trip to the plate.
The series wraps up at noon Sunday when a pair of 3-game winners match up: LSU freshman Eric Walker (3-0, 2.67 ERA) and Florida sophomore Jackson Kowar (3-0, 2.35). The Tigers are looking to avoid being on the wrong end of their first conference sweep since they dropped all three games in the same stadium to Florida in late March 2014.