LSU had its eight inning rally caps on, but fell short in the opener of the best-of-three national championship series, 4-3, to Florida in front of 25,679 at TD Ameritrade Park Monday night.
Game Two will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.
Trailing 3-0 after five, the Tigers cut it to 3-2 in the sixth, fell deeper behind 4-2 in the seventh, but got a lead-off double in the eighth from Greg Deichmann to start a rally. The Tigers beat Mississippi State in the Super Regional opener, 4-3, with four runs in the eighth after trailing 3-0. They beat Florida State in the College World Series opener, 5-4, a week ago Saturday with two runs in the eighth after trailing 4-2 in the fifth.
But it didn't happen on this night.
Deichmann scored one out later to cut the Gators' lead to 4-3 when Josh Smith singled between center and right field. But Smith was thrown out trying to get a double by center fielder Nick Horvath on a close play for the second out.
"It wasn't a reviewable play," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "The ball beat him. I didn't see the video. I heard some were saying he was safe, but I couldn't tell."
Beau Jordan then tapped out to the pitcher. LSU went quietly in the ninth as Michael Papierski struck out, pinch-hitter Chris Reid flew out to center field, and Kramer Robertson lined out to left to end the game.
"We got a few big hits, but we just couldn't push it over the edge," said LSU's Antoine Duplantis, who hit a solo home run in the sixth to cut Florida's lead to 3-1 off Florida starter Brady Singer. Singer proceeded to strike out Deichmann, but then he hit Zach Watson and walked Smith. A two-out single by Jordan got the Tigers within 3-2. Papierski then flew out to left with two runners on to end the sixth.
"We grinded it to the end. We have nothing to hang our heads about," Deichmann said.
"We just came up a little bit short," Mainieri said.
Singer (9-5) struck out a career-high and Florida CWS record 12 while allowing the three runs on eight hits with two walks for the win. Closer Michael Byrne pitched the final two innings for his nation leading 19th save, striking out one and walking none around the one single to Smith.
"Once again, we do just enough to stay ahead," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said.
Surprise LSU starter Russell Reynolds performed valiantly with fist pumps and two strikeouts, but three walks haunted him in the third inning as Florida scored three.
Just moments after the press box announcer said Reynolds had pitched his longest outing of the season at three and a third innings when he got Deacon Liput to ground out to start the third inning, Reynolds' troubles started. He walked Dalton Guthrie - the son of former LSU pitcher Mark Guthrie - on four pitches, then walked J.J. Schwartz on five pitches and finally walked Nelson Maldonado on a full count to load the bases.
"I got a little greedy and tried to get an extra inning out of him," Mainieri said. "If someone would've told me before the game he'd thrown three scoreless innings, I would've taken him out. I was thinking if anything, Russell throws strikes. But then he walked three guys. I should've taken him out."
Reynolds, who had been visited on the mound in the previous inning by pitching coach Alan Dunn, then left the game as freshman left-hander Nick Bush replaced him. Austin Langworthy popped out to shortstop Kramer Robertson far in foul territory, allowing Guthrie to tag up and score from third for a 1-0 lead.
Jonathan India followed with a two-run, ground rule double over the center field wall for a 3-0 lead. Bush struck out Mike Rivera to end the inning. All three earned runs were charged to Reynolds, who allowed just two hits in three and a third innings but walked the three and struck out two for the loss to fall to 1-2.
The Gators took a 4-2 lead in the seventh. Langworthy doubled to lead off against Bush. After a sacrifice bunt by India that got Langworthy to third, Mike Rivera hit an RBI single up the middle. Bush got Christian Hicks to ground out for the second out, moving Rivera to second, before Hunter Newman replaced him. Newman walked No. 9 hitter Ryan Larson and threw a wild pitch in the process, allowing Rivera to get to third. But with runners on the corners, Newman struck out Liput to end the inning.
Reynolds, a fifth-year senior from Parkview Baptist High in Baton Rouge, started for the first time since 2015, entering the game at 1-1 on the season with a 8.59 ERA. Mainieri and Dunn approached this game with the idea of using several pitchers so as to rest top starters Jared Poche (12-3, 3.33 ERA) and Alex Lange (10-5, 2.97 ERA) for games two and three on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Poche, a senior left-hander with a school record 39 career wins, will start Tuesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Lange, a junior right-hander and first round pick of the Chicago Cubs, will start Wednesday at 7 p.m. on ESPN if that game is necessary in the best-of-three series. Newly crowned closer Zack Hess (7-1, 2.62 ERA, 4 saves), who has three saves at the CWS, will be available after two consecutive off days.
"It was amazing to me that we had a chance to win," Mainieri said, considering the second line pitchers used. "It's comforting to know we have Jared Poche starting Tuesday, and if we're fortunate enough to win, then it's Alex Lange. So we don't think it's over."
Florida, which has rest issues with its staff as well, is expected to start freshman right-handed reliever Tyler Dyson (3-0, 3.55 ERA).
"He's got a really good arm," O'Sullivan said. "So, we're going to ride it."
Sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (12-1, 4.15 ERA) is expected to start Wednesday with junior ace and first round pick Alex Faedo (9-2, 2.26) possibly pitching in relief as he just threw 115 pitches in seven and a third innings on Saturday night in beating TCU to reach the championship series.
"Obviously, we have a long way to go," O'Sullivan said.
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