GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As Florida starting pitcher Brady Singer carved up LSU’s lineup for nine innings, a sobering thought occurred to Paul Mainieri.
“I now know what it felt like for other teams to have played against Aaron Nola,” the LSU coach said, referring to his former All-American pitcher. “That was about the closest thing I’ve seen to Aaron Nola pitching against us.
“(Singer) doesn’t give you anything. He keeps pounding strikes, low strikes with movement at 92-93 miles an hour and drops a little breaking ball in there.”
For the second straight day, LSU didn't muster much of anything against an outstanding effort from a Florida starting pitcher, and now the Tigers will head into Sunday hoping to avoid a sweep.
The Gators beat LSU 8-1 to clinch their weekend series behind Singer (3-1), a sophomore right-hander who stymied the Tigers for nine razor-sharp innings.
LSU (17-7, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) managed just six hits off Singer and did not pick up a hit in 12 chances with runners on base in front of them. The Tigers’ lone run came home on an RBI groundout after Antoine Duplantis led off an inning with a double.
Only twice did LSU put the leadoff hitter on base against Singer. One resulted in a run after Duplantis’ double, the other was erased right away by a double play.
“I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves not getting the leadoff guy on,” LSU second baseman Cole Freeman said. “The one run we scored today, we got the leadoff guy on and we moved the runners over.
“It’s hard to get a hit with a guy on second or third with two outs against these types of arms.”
Meanwhile, the Gators (16-8, 2-3) did the opposite. Florida put the leadoff man aboard in six of its eight offensive innings, and each of those runners scored.
That allowed Florida to do what other teams have not done against LSU senior Jared Poché (5-1).
Poché entered the weekend as the SEC leader in wins (five), innings (36), ERA (0.25) and opposing batting average (.128), but the Gators knocked him out of the game before he could get an out in the fifth inning.
Poché allowed a season-high four runs — three of them earned — in a season-low four-plus innings. He was pulled after issuing his fourth walk of the day on his 73rd pitch in the fifth inning. The Gators struck for four more runs against the LSU bullpen.
All those runs were overkill considering the way Singer was breezing through the LSU lineup.
Singer did most of his damage with his low to mid-90s fastball, which was made especially challenging not only because of its velocity, but its movement.
“He’s got about as much run as anybody you’ll see,” LSU senior shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “His fastball looks like it’s going to be in the other batter’s box at 95 miles an hour, then has late life and breaks across the outside corner. Then he’ll start low and sink it below the barrel.
“Then just when you’re trying to cheat on his fastball, he’ll throw the breaking pitch. He (has) a big-league arm. He’s tough and we knew that. We just didn’t meet the challenge today.”
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said that fastball is why the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Singer in the second round out of high school two years ago. It’s hard to find.
“A guy’s got a good fastball when a hitter knows it’s coming and they can’t do much damage with it,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s a real fastball.”
The Tigers have scored just one run in the first two games of the series, and have gone a combined 0-14 with runners in scoring position.
“They’ve had two great outings,” Robertson said. “But we had our chances. We had opportunities. We just didn’t come through and get the big hits. We’ve threatened, but we haven’t strung a bunch of base hits together and that’s what you have to do.”
LSU will attempt to avoid the sweep at noon Sunday.
“It’s just a rough couple of days for us offensively,” Mainieri said. “But tomorrow’s a new day. If we can get one, salvage one, we’ll take it. But we’ve got our work cut out for us tomorrow.”