Tri-parish native leads LSU past No. 1 Florida

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With LSU’s weekend series against No. 1 Florida tied at one game apiece, Tigers coach Paul Mainieri gave the ball to Tri-parish native Brent Bonvillain in Saturday’s decisive tilt.

The Houma native and former Thibodaux High School star delivered the best performance of his collegiate career.

LSU walked out of Gainesville with their biggest series victory of the season.

Thanks to Bonvillain’s four shutout innings in relief, the Tigers were able to keep the Gators in check after they scored seven runs in the game’s first three innings to take an early five-run lead.

With Florida’s bats stymied, LSU delivered the final blows, scoring six unanswered runs to overcome a 7-2 deficit and earn an 8-7 win, which moved the Tigers atop the SEC Western Division standings.

“This win demonstrates the character and determination we have on this ball club,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “We battled through all types of adversity with injuries and a five-run deficit, but we stayed together and everyone contributed to a great victory.”

Bonvillain’s dominant day on the hill came as a bit of a surprise to most familiar with the Tigers’ program.

Prior to Saturday’s four innings of near perfection, during which the Houma native allowed just one hit and struck out five batters, Bonvillain was off to a slow start to the year.

The junior college transfer from Delgado had allowed five runs in his first eight innings and had seemingly fallen out of the mix of the team’s top relievers.

But that may not last for much longer, as the Houma native came through and earned his second win of the season in a thrilling back-and-forth ballgame.

LSU won the game, despite being without starting pitcher Aaron Nola and outfielder Raph Rhymes.

Nola missed his scheduled start with arm fatigue. Rhymes missed the game after being concussed in Friday’s game after being hit by a pitch on the base of his helmet.

“To win a series against a talented team like Florida in their own ball park is a tremendous accomplishment,” Mainieri said. “And I’m extremely proud of the young men wearing LSU across their chests. They were never intimidated and never deterred from the goal of winning this game today.”

To get to Saturday’s dramatics, the Tigers split a pair of games with the Gators on Thursday and Friday.

In Thursday’s game, LSU appeared to be in firm control, having both 3-0 and 6-2 leads.

But Florida responded to each blow from the Tigers with a blow of their own, pushing the game to the bottom of the ninth inning with LSU ahead 7-6.

The Gators had the game-tying run on third base with just one out in that frame, but Tigers’ closer Nick Goody, combined with poor Florida base running, sealed the deal for a one-run LSU win.

The Tigers are now 7-2 in SEC games decided by one-run after the 2-0 mark this weekend.

“We continue to find a way to win the close games, which are so common in our league,” Mainieri said. “I thought we competed extremely hard. We played with a lot of confidence and we need to keep building on this momentum.”

In Friday’s game, the Tigers didn’t have an opportunity to use late game heroics, as the Gators scored early and often in a 7-0 victory.

That win set the stage for Saturday’s rubber match, which is an early frontrunner for SEC game of the season.

With the win, the Tigers are now 25-7 on the season and 8-4 in the SEC.

That mark is one-game ahead of Arkansas’ 7-5 pace. But the Tigers swept the Razorbacks two weekends ago, giving LSU the season tiebreaker over the Hogs.

LSU’s record is also two games ahead of Ole Miss and Auburn, who are both 6-6.

The Tigers have a chance to build on their early-conference lead this weekend when they host a three-game tilt with Alabama.

Usually a power, the Crimson Tide have fallen on hard times this season and are currently just 13-19 on the season and 4-8 in the SEC.

Following the series with Alabama, LSU then travels for a three-game showdown with Kentucky, who currently sits atop the entire SEC with a 9-3 record.

LSU returns to action tonight in a non-conference tilt with Southern Miss.

First pitch for that game will take place at 7 p.m. and the game will be played at Zephyr Field as part of the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic.

LSU pitcher Brent Bonvillain fires a pitch during this past weekend’s series with No. 1 Florida.