Ninth Inning Explosion Lifts Tigers to Win

Tigers rally in the ninth to defeat the Gators 7-3.

LSU erupted for four runs in the top of the ninth inning Thursday, breaking a 3-3 tie and lifting the Tigers to a 7-3 victory over Florida at McKethan Stadium.

LSU improved to 34-20 overall and 13-15 in the SEC. Florida fell to 26-28 overall and 8-20 in conference play. The Tigers are seeking a berth in the SEC Tournament, which begins Wednesday in Hoover, Ala. The Tigers entered Friday's game with a half-game lead over Tennessee and Mississippi State for the final spot in the eight-team event.

Game 2 of the LSU-Florida series is set for 5:30 p.m. CT Friday. Junior left-hander Clay Dirks is LSU's scheduled starting pitcher while Florida will counter with senior right-hander Bryan Ball.

LSU designated hitter Steven Waguespack led off the ninth inning Thursday with a single before first baseman Jordan Mayer drew a walk from Florida starting pitcher Bryan Augenstein, who was then lifted for reliever Darren O'Day.

Centerfielder Jarred Bogany singled sharply to left field to score Waguespack and give LSU a 4-3 lead. After third baseman Will Harris popped out, left fielder Bruce Sprowl delivered an RBI single to right field, scoring Mayer.

Bogany and Sprowl then scored on shortstop Michael Hollander's single to right, staking the Tigers to a 7-3 advantage.

Florida mounted a rally in the bottom of the ninth, however, against LSU reliever Chase Dardar. After Stephen Barton grounded out, Adam Davis reached on a bunt single and Dardar walked Brian Jeroloman. Dardar then hit Matt LaPorta with a pitch to load the bases and bring the tying run to the plate.

LSU coach Smoke Laval moved Harris from third base to the pitcher's mound, and the senior right-hander got Bryson Barber to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to end the game. The double play was LSU's fourth of the game, tying a season-high. The Tigers also turned four double plays versus Temple on Feb. 26.

Harris received credit for his third save of the season, while Dardar earned to win to improve to 6-3 on the year. Dardar worked 2.1 scoreless innings in relief of starter Edgar Ramirez, allowing one hit with three walks and two strikeouts.

Augenstein (9-6) was charged with the loss as he surrendered five runs – two earned – on eight hits in eight innings with three walks and six strikeouts.

"We got some timely hits and some good fortune tonight, and that's what you need to win a baseball game," Laval said. "I thought Edgar did a very good job in keeping us in the game. We were hoping to get four or five innings from him tonight, and he worked into the seventh. I thought we competed with a sense of urgency tonight, and that's something that needs to continue through the weekend."

Ramirez, who came out of the game with no outs in the seventh inning, worked a career-best six innings in his first start in an LSU uniform. The junior right-hander allowed three runs on eight hits with four walks and four strikeouts.

Florida grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on Barber's RBI single, but Ramirez held the Gators scoreless over the next five frames. Meanwhile, Augenstein blanked LSU through the first six innings before the Tigers scored three runs in the seventh, a rally aided by two Florida errors.

Harris and Sprowl contributed RBI singles in the seventh, and errors by Cash at third base and Brian Leclerc in right field helped the Tigers take a 3-1 lead. But, Florida came right back to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the frame as second baseman Brandon McArthur launched a two-run homer off of Ramirez.

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