Brandon Neely of the Florida Gators reacts after giving up a home run to Cade Beloso of the LSU Tigers during the 11th inning of Game 1 of the NCAA College World Series baseball finals at Charles Schwab Field on June 24, 2023 in Omaha, Nebraska. LSU defeated Florida 4-3. (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)
By Matthew Tallarini
World Baseball Network
OMAHA, Neb. – The Louisiana State University Tigers won game one of the College World Series final, beating the Florida Gators 4-3 in 11 innings, putting them one win away from their first national championship since 2009.
“That was a great college baseball game. Two of the best teams in the country, a ton of execution by both teams from the mound. Great defensive plays and really good quality at-bats,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said after Saturday’s game one win.
This is the second time the two programs have met in the College World Series final, the first being 2017, when Florida overtook the Bayou Bengals for their first national championship.
Tigers leadoff man Dylan Crews took first base after being hit by a pitch from Florida starter Brandon Sproat, and scored to make it 1-0 when designated hitter Cade Beloso laced a single to left field later in the opening frame.
In the top of the third, LSU second baseman Gavin Dugas took a hanging slider from Sproat and launched a solo home run into the left field bullpen, his 17th of the season to make it 2-0.
LSU’s batters wore down Sproat, getting him to throw 111 pitches over four innings plus one batter, but he was effective, allowing six hits, two earned runs, walking five, and striking out seven.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Gators tied the game up at two a piece as second baseman Cade Kurkland placed a ground ball to LSU second baseman Gavin Dugas scoring right fielder Ty Evans to even the score at 2-2.
During the bottom of the sixth inning, the Gators took the lead when senior catcher BT Riopelle launched Ty Floyd’s fastball over the right center field wall to put Florida ahead 3-2.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Tigers tied the game at three when third baseman Tommy White took Gators reliever Cade Fisher deep over the left field wall for his 24th home run of the season.
Fisher would be taken out of the game shortly after giving up a single to first baseman Tre’ Morgan, having thrown 3.1 innings, allowing four hits, one earned run, no walks, and striking out five.
For LSU, Ty Floyd was masterful, throwing eight innings and allowing five hits, three earned runs, one walk, and striking out 17 of the 30 batters he faced. The last time a starting pitcher threw 17 strikeouts in the College World Series was Arizona State’s Ed Bane against Oklahoma in 1972.
“Ty was outstanding tonight. Really hard to put into words what a performance meant for the outcome of the game and for our team,” said LSU head coach Jay Johnson.
During the postgame press conference World Baseball Network asked Floyd about his chemistry with his batterymate catcher Alex Milazzo.
Floyd pointed to his batterymate Alex Milazzo as a source of some of his success.
“Alex has been great for us all year, it was the first time he caught me in a couple weeks he was able to steal me some pitches tonight, able to block some balls when I needed and other teams are threatened by his arm so I know that runners don’t run as much on him,” Floyd said.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Gators threatened with runners on first and second with one out. Potential first round Major League Baseball draft pick Wyatt Langford ripped a liner to left field, sending LSU left fielder Josh Pearson backward towards the wall. Pearson leapt and extended his glove, pulling in the pill and making a game-saving catch for the second out of the inning.
“I knew I hit the ball good. I just hit it right at him. That sucks, probably something I’ll never forget, looking back on it,” Langford said.
Tigers reliever Riley Cooper got Golden Spikes Award finalist Jac Caglianone to pop up to shortstop Jared Jones for the final out of the inning with no harm done.
“That was sweet. That’s what I’mm talking about – filling up the strike zone and trusting my defense. I completely trust him and he saved me out there.” LSU relief pitcher Riley Cooper said of Pearson’s catch.
In the top of the eleventh inning, the Bayou Bengals took the lead when Cade Beloso smoked a solo home run over the right center field wall, his 16th of the season as LSU went up 4-3.
Cooper earned the win, doing three innings of work and getting Deric Fabian to strike out for the final out of the game.
The Tigers are one win away from their seventh national championship in program history and the first since the 2009 College World Series.
Game two of the National Championship Series will be on Sunday at 3 p.m. EDT on ESPN. If Florida wins on Sunday, game three of the National Championship series will be at 7 p.m. EDT on ESPN.