BATON ROUGE -- After taking an early three-run lead, No. 5 LSU surrendered five runs to No. 1 Florida in the fourth inning, and the Gator pitching staff stymied the Tiger bats down the stretch to post a 7-3 victory in Game 3 Sunday at Alex Box Stadium.
Florida improved to 18-2 and 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Tigers fell to 16-4 (0-3 SEC) with the loss.
LSU set new attendance records this weekend in Alex Box Stadium with a paid attendance of 34,562 and an actual attendance of 28,215 for the three-game series.
Florida right-hander Austin Maddox (1-0), who started the game at designated hitter, hurled the final 4.1 innings in relief to earn his first victory of the season. The sophomore allowed only two hits and struck out three.
LSU's Ben Alsup (3-2) was charged with the loss after giving up five earned runs off 11 hits in four innings.
"That fourth inning seemed to take the win out of our sails," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "I thought Ben pitched pretty well through the first three innings, but they were able to string together some hits in the fourth. We couldn't get anything going at the plate after they took the lead. We know Florida has one of the best pitching staffs in the country, but we're going to face great pitching every weekend. We have to establish enough confidence in ourselves to hit against anybody we play."
The Tigers struck first with a two-run second inning to take a 2-0 lead. With the bases loaded, Jones drove in a run on an RBI single up the middle, and Watkins followed with a sacrifice fly to right.
LSU added another run in the bottom of the third to go up 3-0. Center fielder Mikie Mahtook drew a walk, stole second base, moved to third on a grounder and came home when right fielder Mason Katz reached on an error.
Florida stormed back with a five-run fourth inning to go ahead 5-3. Catcher Mike Zunino and pinch-hitter Jeff Moyer each notched two-run singles, and shortstop Nolan Fontana drilled a triple into the gap in right center to bring home another.
Gator shortstop Josh Adams put his squad up 6-3 in the top of the sixth when he launched a solo shot over the left field wall.
Moyers also delivered a solo dinger for the Gators in the top of the ninth to give Florida a 7-3 advantage.
The Tigers tried to rally late in the ninth inning, putting two runners on base, but Maddox got Mahtook to fly out to center for the final out of the game.
"This was a tough weekend, but we can also use it as a learning experience," Mainieri said. "Florida is simply better than us right now, but we may be as good as they are a month from now. I'd rather that we play our best in April and May instead of playing our best in February and March."
LSU will welcome Louisiana-Lafayette to Alex Box Stadium Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. CDT. Live video, audio and stats can be accessed in the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/HDbaseball. The game can also be heard on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network.
Florida 7, LSU 3 (Mar 20, 2011 at Baton Rouge, La.)
Florida............. 000 501 001 - 7 15 2 (18-2, 3-0 SEC)
LSU................. 021 000 000 - 3 8 1 (16-4, 0-3 SEC)
Pitchers: Florida - Karsten Whitson; Austin Maddox(5) and Mike Zunino.
LSU - Ben Alsup; Jimmy Dykstra(5); Samuel Peterson(6); Joe Broussard(7); Ryan Eades(8); Kevin Berry(9);
Matty Ott(9); Chris Cotton(9) and Ty Ross.
Win-Austin Maddox(1-0) Loss-Ben Alsup(3-2) T-2:56 A-10783
HR UF - Josh Adams (2); Jeff Moyer (1).
Weather: 76 degrees, sunny
Actual Attendance: 7,793
Alsup faced 1 batter in the 5th.