LSU Takes Opener in Hoover

The LSU baseball team was in need of a big showing on Wednesday. Behind a strong outing from Anthony Ranaudo and a flurry of early runs from their bats, LSU outlasted top-seeded Florida.

HOOVER, Ala. – LSU exploded for 19 hits, including three apiece by shortstop Austin Nola and left fielder Mason Katz, and junior right-hander Anthony Ranaudo hurled an outstanding 7.2 innings as the eighth-seeded Tigers defeated the No.1-seed Florida Gators, 10-6, Wednesday in the opening round of the SEC Tournament in Regions Park.

The Tigers (37-20) will face the winner of Wednesday night’s matchup between the fifth-seeded Vanderbilt and fourth-seeded Arkansas on Thursday night at a time to be determined. Florida (40-14) will face the loser of the Vanderbilt-Arkansas game Thursday afternoon.

LSU’s game on Thursday will follow 30 minutes after the conclusion of the 4:30 p.m. contest between Alabama and Ole Miss.

LSU’s 19 hits on Wednesday represented the most by the Tigers against a SEC team this season. LSU also had 19 hits in a win over Vanderbilt on May 7.

Ranaudo (4-2) pitched his longest outing of the season, throwing 7.2 innings and allowing five earned runs on eight hits with five walks. Florida starter Brian Johnson (5-4) was charged with the loss after pitching 3.2 innings and allowing seven runs on nine hits with a pair of strikeouts.

LSU’s offense was led by Nola’s three-hit, two-RBI game, and Katz’s three hits, including a big two-run single in the second inning. First baseman Blake Dean also collected three hits for LSU.

Dean now has 324 career hits, just three shy of tying Jason Williams (1993-96) for second place on the all-time LSU hits list.

“Our intention was to come out aggressive,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “We came up with some clutch hits when we needed them. It was a great victory for us, but any win here is good. I’m proud of the way our guys played today.”

After Ranaudo retired the Gators in order in the first inning, designated hitter Matt Gaudet led off the second inning with a deep home run to straight-away center field to put the Tigers ahead 1-0. The homer was Gaudet’s 19th of the season,

Later in the second, after Johnson walked Landry and surrendered an infield single to Alex Edward, Katz scorched a single up the middle, scoring Landry and Edward and giving the Tigers a 3-0 advantage with no outs in the second.

The Tigers loaded the bases on a bunt single by Tyler Hanover before Micah Gibbs hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Katz scored on the play, extending LSU’s lead to 4-0. Two batters later, Nola singled to right field, scoring Mikie Mahtook to make the score 5-0.

Florida responded in the bottom of the second when second baseman Josh Adams laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored Johnson from third base, making the score 5-1. Ranaudo struck out the next batter, Tyler Thompson, to end the inning with a runner on second base.

In the fourth, the Tigers rallied with two outs when Nola ripped an RBI single off Florida reliever Anthony DiScalfani to make the score 6-1. Blake Dean advanced to third on Nola’s single and scored when DiScalfani threw a wild pitch to Gaudet. LSU led 7-1 at that point.

The Gators cut the deficit to 7-3 in the fifth inning when center fielder Matt den Dekker smashed a two-out double over Katz’s head in left field. The double by den Dekker extended his hitting streak to 16-straight games.

LSU extended its lead to 8-3 in the sixth when Nola doubled, reached third on a Gaudet single and scored on a wild pitch by Gator reliever Steven Rodriguez.

The Tigers increased their advantage to 9-3 in the top of the seventh when Gibbs laced a two-out RBI single to left, scoring Mahtook from third. Gibbs, who finished 2-for-5, leads the team in multi-hit games with 29.

Florida added a run in the eighth inning when den Dekker blasted a solo homer off Ranaudo, cutting the deficit to 9-4. The homer was den Dekker’s 12th of the season. The Gators added two more runs in the inning on back-to-back RBI singles by Adams and Thompson off LSU reliever Paul Bertuccini to pull within three runs at 9-6 with two outs in the eighth.

Bertuccini struck out Ben McMahan, who represented the tying run, with two outs and two men on in the eighth to preserve LSU’s 9-6 lead.

In the ninth, Mahtook smashed an RBI single to left field, plating Edward and increasing LSU’s lead to 10-6.

Bertuccini, making his 107th career appearance, closed out the ninth for the Tigers. The senior right-hander allowed no runs on three hits in 1.1 innings of relief. He is just one appearance shy of tying the LSU career record of 108 appearances set by Mark LaRosa from 1988-91.

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