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The Sports Troll: Gators strike first, but there’s reason for optimism

LSU had virtually no margin for error on Monday night against Florida.

The Tigers had to have about 10 things go exactly right, while also hoping for extraordinary performances from a supporting cast of pitchers who aren’t accustomed to being great in those types of roles.

It didn’t work.

Florida won the game 4-3 and now sits one win away from the National Championship.
But it almost did.

And that is certainly a cause for optimism heading into tomorrow’s Game 2.

Look, I know this is a pro-LSU crowd, but followers of this blog know that I’m a realist and I tend to tell it like it is – even if it’s not the news everyone wants to hear.

So here goes: LSU had no business winning Monday night’s game.

The Gators had a far better pitcher on the mound and the Tigers were relegated to dudes who hardly even pitched this season.

Sure, Russell Reynolds and Nick Bush battled and they were absolutely fantastic given the circumstances. But the cream rose to the top and the Gators ultimately took advantage of them and grabbed control of the game.

If this game were played 10 times, Florida wins eight of them – if not nine. A lot of those games would have been more lopsided than just a one-run game, too.

But the fact remains that Game 1 was winnable for LSU, and I think that’s a definite sign of optimism going forward.

Tomorrow, the roles will revese. The Tigers will throw senior Jared Poche’ – the stalwart, battle-tested horse who has been through just about every battle imaginable as a Tiger.

Florida hasn’t formally announced a starter, but he will not be as good as Poche’ – regardless of who he is.

That’s not to say the Gators can’t win and close out tomorrow.

But on paper, at least, things are in LSU’s favor.

In Game 3, LSU would also have the advantage with Alex Lange set to take the ball against a Florida pitcher who, again, wouldn’t be as decorated as Lange is.

So for LSU, the recipe is simple.

They need Poche’, then they need Lange.

In between, they need timely hits, smooth bullpen work and maybe a little defense, too.

It won’t be easy, but it’s surely not impossible.

With those two bullets left in the gun there are surely worse places to be.

Before the start of the series, I outlined three things LSU needed to do well to win this series.

Let’s revisit and grade how LSU fared in each spot.

1. All about Kramer – We said Robertson needed to be good for LSU, citing how well the Tigers play when he’s rolling. It never materialized. Robertson struggled at the plate throughout the game and the time he got a knock, he got thrown out trying to take second base in the next at-bat in one of the worst base-running moves you’ll ever see a player make.

Grade: D

2. Who else besides Hess? – We also said that the Tigers needed someone in the bullpen to step up besides Zack Hess. That one happened in a big way on Monday. Nick Bush as the first man up and he got 10 outs, while allowing just one earned run. Kudos also go to Hunter Newman for recording seven clean outs and looking like himself again after a really, really tough outing last week against Oregon State.

Grade: B+

3. Start early – With a mismatch on the mound and a lot at stake on the field, LSU needed a fast start to put a little doubt in Florida’s dugout. The first three innings were O, but the three-run fourth for Florida did an awful lot of damage, while allowing Singer to get into a groove which made him almost impossible to hit in the middle innings.

Grade: F

By my math, a progress report featuring a D, an F and a B is not a very high mark.
And LSU still lost by just one run.
I’m just sayin’.

Win, lose or draw, there will be more Troll soon to keep everyone updated on my thoughts in the College World Series Championship Series.

We will also open the mailbag later this week. As always, you can send me questions on Twitter @casey_gisclair.

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