When Florida visited LSU in May 2013, the Tigers greeted the Gators with a dominating three-game sweep.
This weekend, UF returned the favor.
Florida (19-9, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) beat No. 8 LSU (20-8-1, 3-5-1 SEC) 11-7 after falling behind Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium, completing a three-game sweep — the first UF sweep of LSU since 2011 — and claiming their fifth victory against a top-10 team in 11 days.
“I’m not quite sure if three weeks ago this team would have had it in them to fight back,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I think we’re in a different place right now.”
The Gators took the first two games in a doubleheader sweep Saturday but trailed early in the final contest.
The Tigers jumped out to a 1-0 lead when catcher Kade Scivicque drove in shortstop Alex Bregman, but the Gators tied the game minutes later on a solo home run to left-center field from center fielder Harrison Bader.
Bader’s homer was the fourth for the Gators during the weekend — an impressive power surge from a team that had only six home runs entering the series.
“It’s kind of like the law of averages,” first baseman Peter Alonso said. “We didn’t really have that many at the beginning of the year, but as the season progresses, everyone’s starting to get a bit more comfortable at the plate.”
But LSU took the lead back quickly, scoring three runs in the next two innings to go ahead 4-2 heading to the bottom of the third. However, patience prevailed for Florida.
Second baseman Casey Turgeon walked on four straight pitches to lead off the inning and advanced to third on a ground out and a stolen base. Catcher Taylor Gushue drove him in with a single, and Tigers hurler Zac Person walked three straight batters to score the tying run.
Alonso capped off the rally with a single to left, giving the Gators a 6-4 lead they never relinquished.
“I was just sitting fastball because the kid couldn’t really spin the breaking ball for a strike,” Alonso said. “It’s been a while since I’ve gotten into one like that.”
Starting pitcher Justin Shafer, fresh off a 4-inning scoreless start against FSU, did not have the same success as the offense.
O’Sullivan relieved the junior pitcher in the third inning after he gave up four runs on six hits.
Freshman left-hander Kirby Snead replaced Shafer. O’Sullivan had previously used Snead in short stints out of the pen, allowing him to pitch to one or two batters — primarily left-handers — before revisiting the mound.
But Snead had a chance to air his arm out Sunday.
Snead tossed 4.2 innings — only two outs shy of his entire inning total entering the game — of scoreless relief and picked up his first career win.
At one point, Snead retired nine straight. He showed his command of the plate, throwing 34 of his 47 pitches for strikes.
“That’s Sully’s main thing,” Snead said. “When we come out of the pen, just get ahead and get outs quick.”
While Snead was working the Tigers at the plate, the Gators were extending their lead in the fifth inning.
Again, walks proved key to Florida’s rally. Right fielder Braden Mattson and Shafer walked to begin the inning and advanced a base on a sacrifice bunt by third baseman John Sternagel.
Alonso drew an intentional walk — the Gators’ eighth of 11 free passes during the game — and O’Sullivan had catcher Mike Fahrman pinch-hit for left fielder Ryan Larson, who was hitless.
Fahrman knocked a single down the left-field line, scoring two more Gators.
“It takes some focus,” Fahrman said of pinch-hitting. “You got to always have an idea of who’s coming in … Always making sure that, hey, this could be the shot, you might get the at-bat here.”
Shortstop Richie Martin capped the fifth-inning rally with a two-run double, giving Florida an 11-4 lead.
LSU attempted to stage a comeback in the bottom of the ninth, scoring three runs — including two on the Tigers’ second home run of the game — but fell short of the difficult task in front of them.
“It was kind of like the swag that Sully talks about,” Alonso said. “It’s more confidence than anything. … I feel like we have that now, and the world’s our oyster.”
Follow Adam Lichtenstein on Twitter @alichtenstein24