With one swing of the bat in the eighth inning on Sunday with two outs and a full count, Sean McMullen elevated the LSU Tigers to a 2-0 victory over the Florida Gators in the 2014 SEC baseball championship.
As a result of downing the No. 1 RPI team in the nation, the Tigers seized their 11th SEC tournament title and fifth in the past seven years.
McMullen's heroics followed what were seven innings of elite defensive baseball from both sides on the mound and in the field. The Tigers utilized four different pitchers to great effect and surrendered just two hits.
Florida did much of the same on the mound, but Ryan Harris—the third pitcher sent out on Sunday—was handed the loss after allowing McMullen to go yard.
From the first inning, it was easy to see this would be a defensive battle. Alden Cartwright and Karsten Whitson for LSU and Florida, respectively, brought their best stuff to the mound with it all on the line.
Cartwright was especially impressive in the early goings, as he was able to recover and force the Gators to strand runners in the opening frame, as captured by LSU Baseball on Twitter:
Of course, Whitson beat him to the punch in the top of the first frame and forced the Tigers to strand a runner, but he gets a tad less credit as it took him 18 pitches to do so.
So, yes, the writing was on the wall.
The second inning passed without notable events before LSU stranded a runner at second in the third. It was the same in the fourth inning, as Harrison Bader robbed the Tigers of a surefire score with a runner on second, as captured by Nick de la Torre of Gator Country:
The trend continued through the fifth inning. As Scott Rabalais of The Advocate points out, runners in scoring position were at quite a premium through five frames:
Until the sixth inning, of course. LSU loaded the bases after an intentional walk, which brought Kade Scivicque to the plate. Florida's gamble paid off in a big way, as Scivicque hit into an inning-ending double play to keep things scoreless, as Dandy Don LSU Sports illustrates:
Fast-forward to the eighth inning, where the complexion of the game and SEC Championship itself changed thanks to the two-run homer by McMullen. Rabalais explained the details, while LSU Baseball captured McMullen's emotions as he traveled the bases:
From there, the Gators went out with a whimper by going down in order and then losing their final chance via a double play and a groundout.
For LSU, the triumph is an important piece of momentum as it heads for the NCAA tournament. Downing the No. 1 team in the land after a bevy of difficult games in the bracket is no easy task, but the Tigers displayed an uncanny combo of defensive skills and production at the plate that suggests a deep run is in order.
While the upset is a tough pill to swallow, the Gators can take solace in the fact they are headed to the NCAA tournament as well. Their rebound after an early loss to Kentucky in the SEC bracket, paired with the fact that they lost the title game in one swing, should act as positive reinforcement heading into the Big Dance.
Note: All info courtesy of SEC Digital Network unless otherwise specified.
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