OMAHA, Neb. — Cade Beloso hit the tiebreaking homer in the top of the 11th inning after Ty Floyd struck out a career-high 17 for the most in a College World Series game in 51 years and LSU beat Florida 4-3 in Game 1 of the CWS finals Saturday night.
Beloso's blast came after LSU left fielder Josh Pearson made a leaping catch to keep Florida from scoring the winning run in the 10th and moved the Tigers (53-16) within a win of their seventh national championship, and first since 2009.
The second game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday.
Beloso's three-run homer in a 5-2 win over Wake Forest on Wednesday kept the Tigers' season alive, and he came up against Florida closer Brandon Neely (3-2) to lead off the 11th.
Beloso sent Neely's second pitch over the right-field fence, raised his left index finger to the sky as he rounded third and stuck out his tongue as he crossed home plate. Then he beat his chest, pulled on the front his jersey a couple times and chest-bumped Floyd on his way into the dugout.
"The previous at-bat, he struck me out on three straight heaters and I figured he would go back to it," Beloso said. "They weren't going to switch anything up. I got one I was supposed to swing at and put a good swing on it."
LSU closer Riley Cooper (5-3) took over in the ninth inning after Floyd struck out the most batters in a CWS game since Arizona State’s Ed Bane fanned 17 in a 1-0 win over Oklahoma in 1972.
Cooper worked out of trouble in the ninth and 10th before pitching a 1-2-3 11th that ended with him striking out BT Riopelle and Deric Fabian, setting off a celebration among the throng of LSU fans that included Cincinnati Bengals quarterback and 2019 LSU national champion Joe Burrow.
It looked as though Wyatt Langford had the winning hit for Florida (53-16) in the 10th when he sent a high liner to left, but Pearson ran back and made a leaping catch. That brought up national home run co-leader Jac Caglianone, who popped out to end the inning.
"We played 11 innings and lost on a pitch on a 1-0 count," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We didn't play our best baseball, but the message tomorrow is we’ve got nothing to lose at this point. We’re in the College World Series and we're playing in the finals. We can’t let this leak into tomorrow."
Riopelle hit his 18th homer of the year, and eighth in 14 games, to put the Gators up 3-2 in the sixth.
Tommy White, who sent the Tigers to the finals with his 11th-inning walk-off homer against Wake Forest on Thursday, tied it in the eighth when he hammered Cade Fisher’s 0-2 slider into the left-field seats for his 24th of the season.
The game was a CWS record-tying eighth decided by one run.
LSU managed to win despite striking out 16 times and leaving 17 runners on base against Brandon Sproat, Fisher and Neely.
"Baseball is a tough game and when runners get on, that's when pitchers make their best pitches," Beloso said. "In terms of not getting the job done, no one was freaking out about it. We just keep playing and know eventually we'll come through."