‘More goals to accomplish’: Aided by a five-run fifth inning, Tigers clinch series against top-ranked Gators in resumed Game 1

Tigers win game 11th straight in contest resumed from Thursday

Special to Tiger Rag

LSU had No. 1 Florida on the ropes in the the fifth inning of Saturday’s resumption of Game 1 at Alex Box Stadium, the first of two games on the final day of the regular season.

Winners of their last 11 games, the Tigers (39-16, 19-10 Southeastern Conference) loaded the bases against the stiff-throwing Gator reliever Brady Singer, ready to bust open a game they led 2-1 and would win 7-3.

“That might be the best arm I’ve seen in the Southeastern Conference,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said, “and that’s saying something. That ball jumped out of his hands. It was electric.”

Jordan Romero, mired in a funk as a hitter and behind the plate, then did the only you couldn’t do with the bases loaded and no outs – hit a ground ball back to the pitcher. Singer started a 1-2-3 double play to prematurely quell LSU’s threat, bringing up Chris Reid with men on second and third and two outs.

Ten pitches later, Reid reloaded the bases with a walk. Bryce Jordan followed by taking a pitch off his body for the 22nd time this season, breaking a school record. Beau Jordan then reached on Singer’s third free pass in as many at-bats. Greg Deichmann delivered the final blow with a bases-clearing double for a six-run advantage.

“Sometimes, pitchers pitch better whenever it’s a closer game,” said Tiger right-hander Riley Smith. “Knowing that you can make a few mistakes and it’s O.K., it makes you feel better.”

With Smith sitting comfortably after three innings, a flawless three innings from fellow right-hander Parker Bugg handled the rest.

After a 39-hour, 45-minute delay to the series opener, LSU captured a series victory and is one win shy of a top-four finish in the league. A seven-inning Game 3 will start at 3:30 p.m, and Mainieri doesn’t want his team to be content with a series victory against the top-ranked club in the country.

“Not right now, honestly,” Mainieri said. “We’re proud of that, don’t get me wrong. But there’s more goals to accomplish with one more victory this weekend.”

A sweep-clinching victory of Florida (43-11, 18-10 SEC) would give LSU a bye in the first round of the conference tournament, meaning the Tigers would play Wednesday instead of Tuesday.

Saturday’s restart of the opener, which was washed out due to Thursday’s severe thunderstorms, began just the way LSU wanted it to. Picking up with a 3-2 count to Antoine Duplantis and Cole Freeman at second base in the third inning, Singer conceded a walk and back-to-back infield hits to give the Tigers a 1-0 advantage.

Smith, who was scheduled to start Game 3, “relieved” Thursday’s starter Alex Lange and grinded his way through three innings of three-run ball. J.J. Schwarz’s leadoff double off Smith helped tie the game in the fourth, but Smith achieved a shutdown inning in the fifth to protect a one-run lead.

Despite the Gators notching a pair of runs off Smith in the sixth, the five-run fifth inning was enough cushion for Smith and Bugg, who picked up a nine-out save with two strikeouts.

Smith acknowledge he didn’t have his best stuff but pushed through.

“They wouldn’t hack at anything that was in the dirt, and I left a few in the dirt,” Smith said. “I made some mistakes and hit some balls in the gaps. It could have been better, but we got a win. So, that’s all that matters.”

Deichmann was responsible for four of the Tigers’ seven RBIs.

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