Glen Guilbeau / Gannett Louisiana
HOOVER, Ala. – Senior designated hitter Sean McMullen launched a two-out, two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning Sunday to lift eighth-ranked LSU to a 2-0 victory over No. 7 Florida in the 2014 SEC Tournament championship game at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
The tournament title was LSU’s second in a row, its fifth in the past seven years and its 11th overall.
LSU (44-14-1) won its eighth straight game and recorded its 17th shutout of the season, a figure that leads the nation. Florida, which wass No. 1 in the nation in RPI (ratings percentage index used for NCAA postseason seedings) dropped to 40-21 with Sunday’s loss.
LSU learned later Sunday that it will host one of the 16 NCAA Regional tournaments that begin on Friday. The entire 64-team NCAA Tournament bracket will be announced at 11 a.m. Monday in a selection show televised by ESPNU.
“Another thrilling SEC tournament championship; I can tell you this never gets old,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said in a story by the LSU Sports Information Department. “We just love coming to Hoover. From the hotel, the police escorts, the beautiful ballpark, it is a well-run tournament. The competition is obviously extraordinary. Our players just love it here. They play great. It brings out the best in us. I don’t think there is anything bad that happens with winning a championship here because, as I told you yesterday, our players can go to bed and wake up in the morning with the opportunity to win a championship. We hope they have that same experience next weekend.”
The game was scoreless in the top of the eighth inning when LSU freshman leftfielder lined a two-out single against Florida reliever Ryan Harris. Fraley stole second base, and with a 3-2 count on McMullen, the Tigers’ DH unloaded a Harris pitch over the right-centerfield wall for his sixth homer of the season.
“I wasn’t actually feeling any pressure at all,” McMullen said of the at-bat. “I was just looking around, seeing what I’m a part of, all the fans that came to the game. It is such a beautiful facility. I just wanted to soak it in. This was my last game at this field, and I’m very blessed to be a part of this team. I grew up dreaming of playing for the LSU Tigers. For this to happen is surreal.”
LSU senior right-hander Kurt McCune blanked the Gators over the final two innings to earn his fifth save. McCune, starter Alden Cartwright, and relievers Nate Fury and Zac Person combined to limit the Gators to just two hits.
Person (3-1), a junior left-hander, was credited with the win after he retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh. Harris (3-2) was charged with the loss as he allowed two runs on three hits in two innings with no walks and no strikeouts.
Cartwright worked the first four innings for LSU, allowing just one hit while firing 56 pitches. Florida starter Karsten Whitson was also effective, as he gave up three hits in six innings with three walk and on strikeout.