The Florida Gators took a 1-0 series lead over the LSU Tigers in the 2017 College World Series finals following a 4-3 victory Monday night at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Tigers offense had no answer for Gators starter Brady Singer, who pitched seven innings and allowed three earned runs on eight hits. He struck out a season-high 12 batters as well, which were a CWS finals record, according to NCAA Baseball. Even Singer's teammates were in awe of his performance:
Florida needed a strong showing from the sophomore right-hander since it only mustered six hits. Catcher Mike Rivera's RBI single in the top of the seventh was the difference in the game. The base hit put the Gators ahead 4-2.
Tigers third baseman Josh Smith made it a 4-3 game in the bottom of the eighth after bringing home right fielder Greg Deichmann on a single.
The Gators were hanging on the edge of their seats as Michael Byrne pitched the final two innings:
Florida's win doesn't come as a huge surprise given the gulf between the respective starting pitchers.
Entering Monday, Russell Reynolds had appeared in 14 games this year, all of which came in a relief role. In a surprising move, LSU coach Paul Mainieri gave the senior right-hander the start for Game 1 of the College World Series.
Reynolds got off to a strong start, facing the minimum nine batters through three innings. The Advocate's Luke Johnson was among those pleasantly surprised by his performance:
Reynolds unraveled in the fourth inning, though, walking the bases loaded with one out. Nick Bush replaced Reynolds and allowed a run to score on a sacrifice fly by Florida left fielder Austin Langworthy. Third baseman Jonathan India brought two more runs home with a double to put Florida ahead 3-0.
"I got a little too greedy," Mainieri said of bringing Reynolds out for the fourth, per Baseball America's Michael Lananna.
D1Baseball.com's Kendall Rogers thought a three-run lead was more than enough for Singer:
Singer cruised until the sixth, when he surrendered two runs on a solo home run by LSU left fielder Antoine Duplantis and an RBI single by designated hitter Beau Jordan.
Smith's RBI in the eighth made things interesting, but he made a mistake by trying to stretch the single into a double. Florida center fielder Nick Horvath threw him out at second base. Instead of the tying run on first with one out, the bases were empty with two outs.
Jordan ended the inning with a groundout.
Some will likely second-guess Mainieri's decision to start Reynolds. However, the Tigers still have their two best starters, Jared Poche' and Alex Lange, available to keep their College World Series title hopes alive. If Poche' can deliver a win Tuesday, then LSU will have its ace on the mound in a decisive Game 3.
With that said, Monday's defeat leaves the Tigers with no margin for error, and LSU will likely see Alex Faedo match up with Lange should the series extend to Wednesday.