Florida right-hander Brady Singer looked like a No. 1 draft pick Monday night, mowing down LSU batters right and left with a College World Series record 12 strike outs in a championship series game.
The 4-3 win by the Gators over Southeastern Conference rival LSU put Kevin O’Sullivan’s club one win away from the program’s first CWS title. If they do it, it will be quite an accomplishment considering LSU has never been beaten in Omaha when the Tigers were in position to win the title.
“Brady was outstanding,” said O’Sullivan. “Obviously that one inning I think with two runners on with nobody out and struck out the side was huge. Get 12 strikeouts tonight. Threw seven. I think it was probably similar to Alex Faedo’s start the other day where there was some tense moments where he had to make some big pitches, and he battled and gave it all he had.”
Singer said he felt confident from the start, having had six days rest since his last appearance in bracket play.
“Yeah, I felt pretty good coming out of the pen,” said Singer. “I felt pretty rested on six days rest. I felt like everything was working … I felt like I was landing (his slider) a lot more for strikes than I usually do.”
LSU coach Paul Mainieri wouldn’t disagree, admitting his players battled Singer about as well as possible considering he was throwing his fastball where he wanted.
“When you think about it we went against one of the best pitchers in the country. I think the guy will be the first pick in the draft next year,” said Mainieri.
Singer scattered eight hits against the Tigers and never seemed to be in trouble until the end after he convinced O’Sullivan to let him pitch to LSU’s Greg Deichman. After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Deichman hung in against the craft right-hander and delivered a lead off double down the third base line to give the Tigers hope. That ended the night for the 6-foot-5 Singer, who was relieved by Michael Byrne. Deichman scored one batter later off a single by Josh Smith.
But Smith also tried to stretch his hit into a double and was called out on the throw from center by Nick Horvath. That was essentially the ball game.
Mainieri wasn’t going to fault Smith for the effort. Smith thought he was safe.
“It’s not a reviewable play,” said Mainieri. “You know, the ball beat him. I don’t know if Josh with his swim move got around it or not. I haven’t seen the video of it.”
It was the first win for Florida in a championship series game, having gone 0-2 when the CWS was decided in a one-game, winner-take-all game.
Catcher Mike Rivera said that he and his teammates don’t need to be reminded that LSU won’t go down without a fight.
“We know we won the first game. Now we just have to take on the second game, take it inning by inning and not look ahead,” said Rivera.
Although Mainieri’s squad is now 1-3 against the Gators this season, the Tigers are confident they are a better team than they were when they lost a March series in Gainesville. They’ve proven it by winning the SEC tournament, sweeping through the regionals and super regionals and then knocking off top-ranked Oregon State in back-to-back elimination games in bracket play.
So being down a game to Florida now won’t cause them to panic, especially with ace Jared Poche set to pitch Game 2 Tuesday night.
“I told the kids, you know, we don’t have to beat these guys twice. We’ve just got to beat them tomorrow,” said Mainieri. “Let’s win one game. And then we’ll worry about the next game after that. ”