Just looking a the box score, its looks as though Florida ran with the game, but that wasn’t really the case. Florida won the game because of timely hitting by Mike Zunino (3-5, 2 doubles, 3 RBIs) and mental errors by LSU players and coaches.
David Ferrie’s quote from the movie JFK “It’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma”, perfectly summed up LSU performance on Friday night. In the second, third and sixth inning, LSU had a runner on first base with one or no outs and all three times they hit into a double play. Austin Nola walked in the second inning with only one out. The next batter, Ty Ross, flied out to center field, but for some reason Nola was rounding second base after the catch and was doubled off. I guess he thought there were two outs before the fly out. Nola had another mental error in the fifth inning. Nola led off the inning with a double. Ty Ross hit a slow grounder to third base, forcing the third baseman to charge the ball to throw Ross out at first. He threw Ross out, but Nola sat on second base and did not advance. The next batter, Tyler Hanover, hit a grounder to third and again Nola stayed put.
Nola would advance to third on the next at-bat on a wild pitch and did not go any further. Also, as bunt crazy as Paul Maineri is, why didn’t he ask Ross to lay down the sacrifice bunt and move Nola over to third? It was the fifth inning, LSU was down 2-0 and only three Tigers had reached base (two walks and a single). I’m not saying that Nola would have scored if they executed the bunt, but it would have put more pressure on pitcher Jonathon Crawford and the defense not the make a mistake, and a runner would have only been 90-feet away from home.
Speaking of pitching, getting beyond the mental errors by LSU, both starting pitchers looked excellent. Jonathon Crawford bounced back from a rough outing last weekend and threw 6.0 innings only allowing three hits and two walks while striking out four. Kevin Gausman pitched great for 6.0 innings, the problem is Paul Maineri turned into Grady Little and sent Gausman out to pitch the seventh. In six innings, Gausman allowed six hits and only three walks. He struck out seven, but everyone could tell that in the fifth innings he looked gassed.
Gausman allowed two runs in the bottom of the third, but other than that cruised through the first four innings. His stuff was electric, but eventually Florida began to make consistent contact with the ball. In the sixth inning, Florida hit the ball extremely hard, but Gausman was bailed out because they were hit right to LSU fielders and in the seventh everything unraveled.
Gausman allowed the first two batters to reach base on singles and Maineri allowed Gausman to face Florida’s best two hitters, Zunino and Preston Tucker. Zunino struck out swinging and Preston Tucker was intentionally walked (someone please explain why). With the bases loaded with one out, I guess Maineri thought it was Gausman’s game to lose. Brain Johnson would advance each runner up a bag by reaching base on a pop-up to shallow left field that Austin Nola and Raph Rhymes miss-communicated on and dropped ( if you are scoring at home, that is three bad plays by Nola). Nolan Fontana would end Gausman’s night with a two RBI single to extend the lead to 5-0.
Why was Gausman not pulled earlier is a tough question to answer. If you’re coaching LSU, what do you do? Take out your best pitcher in one of the toughest spots in the game, or pull him and take a chance with a suspect bullpen? Either way you could be a hero or a goat, and in this cause it caused Maineri to look like a goat.
As good as Florida played in all three phases, I find it hard to believe LSU could have won the game. Maybe without all of the mental lapses, the score could have been closer. This now leaves us with a huge Saturday matchup. LSU will be leaning heavy on Ryan Eades to throw his best game of the season and give LSU a chance to win the series. First pitch is set for 1:00pm.