Sophomore starter Brady Singer struck out 12 and Jonathan India delivered a two-run double, leading Florida past LSU 4-3 on Monday night in Game 1 of the College World Series championship series at TD Ameritrade Stadium in Omaha, Neb.
Game 2 is Tuesday and Game 3, if necessary, is slated for Wednesday.
Florida mounted the first legitimate threat in the top of the fourth inning. The Gators loaded the bases with one out and knocked LSU starter Russell Reynolds out of the game.
Florida's Dalton Guthrie scored the first run, racing home on Austin Langworthy's sacrifice fly on a foul ball. India followed with a ringing double to deep center field that plated JJ Schwarz and Nelson Maldonado, giving the Gators a 3-0 lead.
Guthrie, who started after having to leave Florida's win over TCU on Saturday with back spasms, also made a highlight-reel diving catch on a foul ball in the third inning.
Antoine Duplantis' solo home run put the Tigers on the board in the sixth inning and ended a run of 15 straight scoreless innings by Florida pitchers. Beau Jordan also had an RBI single in the inning that cut the Gators' lead to 3-2.
LSU opened the bottom of the fourth with consecutive singles from Duplantis and Greg Deichmann. But Singer struck out the next three hitters to get out of the jam.
"Brady was outstanding," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "There were some tense moments when he had to make some big pitches. He battled and gave it all he had."
Singer scattered eight hits and allowed three runs in seven innings before giving way to Michael Byrne.
"My feelings are that we went up against who I believe to be maybe the best pitcher I've seen in the SEC for an opponent since I've been the coach at LSU," Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said.
Mike Rivera singled home Langworthy in the seventh to push Florida's lead to 4-2.
LSU got back within one on an RBI single by Josh Smith in the eighth, but Byrne retired the Tigers in order in the ninth to lock down the win.
It's a huge victory for the Gators, who aren't sure how much they will get from one of their aces in Game 2. Alex Faedo pitched seven scoreless innings against TCU in the CWS opener, then threw 7 1/3 shutout innings Saturday to knock out TCU. His availability out of the bullpen is a question mark.
LSU is looking for its seventh College World Series title and has both of its top arms rested and ready to go in Games 2 and 3, if needed.
"It's comforting to know that we still have Jared Poche' going tomorrow, fully rested, and if we're fortunate enough to win tomorrow night, then we have Alex Lange waiting," Mainieri said. "So we don't think this series is over by a long stretch. We're excited about playing tomorrow and hopefully we can have a little bit more luck on our side tomorrow."
Florida's Game 2 starter had not been announced Monday night.
The Gators are in the CWS finals for the third time but are looking for their first title. History says they are in good shape.
Since the College World Series went to a best-of-three format in 2003, the team that wins Game 1 has gone on to capture the series 10 of 14 years.
"Obviously, there's a long way to go in this thing," O'Sullivan said. "We're facing the winningest pitcher in LSU history (Poche'), which is saying a lot, since there have been so many good pitchers that have come through that program. Our players will be prepared and know that this is a long way from being over."
This is the fifth time the College World Series championship series has featured teams from the same conference. Florida beat LSU in two of their three meetings in SEC play. With another win Tuesday night, the Gators will be national champions.