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Florida uses comeback to advance to SEC Tournament final

Freshman Mike Rivera made up for a costly baserunning error and sent UF to Sunday's championship game.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

We here at Alligator Army regret to inform you of disconcerting news regarding Florida's dramatic 2-1 win over the LSU Tigers on Saturday:

If you're reading this, you have been left on base — or it may feel that way.

But in the top of the ninth, freshman Mike Rivera didn't need anyone on the basepaths to give Florida the lead that would become the final score as his home run sailed out to left center at the cavernous Hoover Met.

In both the first and the fourth inning, the Gators left the bases loaded, en route to their total of 10 men left on base over the entire game. Not to be outdone, the top-ranked Tigers left nine — but the one they pushed across in the second was enough for most of the afternoon.

In the beginning of the game, just two outs in, LSU ace Alex Lange looked dialed in, inducing a pop-up for Dalton Guthrie and striking out Buddy Reed looking on a fastball set up by a devastating breaking ball one pitch prior.

From there, his command started to waver, and the 10-game winner began a death by a thousand missed spots: Lange didn't permit a run, but allowed the Gators to reach base on balls six times and tally five hits.

LSU's brilliance Saturday was such that, despite Lange's spotty command at times, it was able to allow him to work two innings by throwing fewer than 10 pitches, thanks to impressive defense. LSU double plays in the fifth and the sixth held UF off the scoreboard, and Lange struck out seven Gators in seven innings of work.

With him out of the picture, though, Florida jumped on the LSU bullpen in the eighth, scoring to tie the game. Tigers right-hander Zac Person gave up a single to Josh Tobias on a fastball laced to left field, then Peter Alonso drew a walk. With two on, no out and Hunter Newman in to pitch for the Tigers, JJ Schwarz smacked an RBI double to right that scored Tobias.

But as Tobias crossed home plate, this happened behind him:

It was a colossal baserunning error leading to a double play and clearing the bases — but not in the good way. Given the fact Harrison Bader would single on the next at bat, a possible 3-1 lead looked squandered due to the ineptitude on the basepaths.

The final of a series of missed opportunities could have cost the Gators a second straight trip to the SEC Tournament final, but Rivera had other ideas, and his mighty clout changed Florida's fortunes. Now, Florida has the opportunity to finish a week begun with post-midnight heartbreak happier than any other SEC team.

In Sunday's championship game, Vanderbilt awaits in a rematch of one of the most impressive series victories of UF's season so far. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on ESPN2.