HOOVER, Ala. — Maybe it was the mysterious fog that descended upon the field at the Hoover Met or a hangover effect of having had to play earlier in the day. Perhaps Florida was just eager to get back home and get a jump on NCAA Tournament preparations.
Whatever the reason, the nation’s consensus No. 1 juggernaut imploded in on itself looking like a disinterested, disorganized mess as LSU exacted a small measure of revenge in a series that had gone the other way too often of late.
Finishing the job will have to wait until morning, however.
LSU scored seven times in the sixth inning and was leading Florida 10-0 in a game suspended until morning due to a dense fog that made the field unplayable. The game is set to resume Saturday at 10 a.m. with both Southeastern Conference Tournament Semifinal games set to be played afterword.
“We would have loved to finish the game tonight, but you can’t always get what you want,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “The Commissioner made the correct decision. We couldn’t even see the outfielders, much less a ball in the air, and player safety is always the No. 1 thing. Nobody can predict what the fog is going to do and it’s almost midnight.”
LSU will go back to the team hotel and have a 7:15 a.m. wake-up call for breakfast before making their way back to the Hoover Met. Provided LSU is able to hold the lead — leading by 10+ runs after seven innings would trigger the mercy rule — it would then have time to kill before taking on Arkansas in the second semifinal game that’ll be played Saturday.
“They’re going to get less than seven hours of sleep tonight and have to resume this game tomorrow,” Mainieri said. “It’s a shame that we couldn’t finish the game, because if we can hold on to the lead, we’re going to have to come back and play again later in the day. That would be a long day, but they’re young. They’ve got a lot of energy and we’ll do what we need to do.”
Due to tournament regulations, the game couldn’t be called in the sixth inning despite the lopsided score. According to SEC officials, calling the game in the sixth would mean the NCAA doesn’t recognize it as a full game.
The delay may be even more of an annoyance to Florida than LSU. Given the way the Gators played, it was abundantly clear that they were ready to get out of dodge on Friday night. Antoine Duplantis drove in three runs and the other seven scored on an array of errors, wild pitches and pass balls.
Right-hander Matt Beck started and gave LSU more than it could have honestly dreamed of despite constantly working himself into tough situations.
Beck put men on base in each of his four innings, but he stranded eight runners to post four zeroes on the scoreboard. He allowed three hits and issued four walks, but Florida went hitless in seven at-bats against him with runners in scoring position.
LSU didn’t muster much in the way of hits, either, but the Tigers made the most of their first grade-A scoring chance.
Duplantis got LSU on the board in the third inning by roping an RBI double to right-center field with two outs off Florida starter Jack Leftwich. LSU was then gifted two more runs when SEC Player of the Year Jonathan India threw the ball away on a routine play one batter later.
Cam Sanders took over to begin the fifth inning and picked up right where he left off against Florida on Tuesday night. Sanders went the final two innings and allowed one hit while striking out four.
The wheels completely fell off for the Gators in the sixth, and LSU was more than willing to reap the benefits.
Daniel Cabrera singled to get the inning going and scored on a wild pitch. Zach Watson, who then reached on an error, then scored on a pass ball. Hunter Feduccia walked and scored on India’s second error of the night and fourth in as many games against LSU.
Smelling the mercy rule within reach, Duplantis sliced a two-run single through the left side to increase the lead to 9-0. A Cabrera popup got lost in the fog to bring in run No. 10, but that precipitated the umpiring crew pulling both teams off the field.