The Florida Gators welcomed the nation’s No. 1 team, Tennessee, to the newly minted Condron Family Ballpark this weekend. Unfortunately, Florida dropped to 6-12 in SEC play after being swept.
So, let’s recap what happened.
It was reported (by D1Baseball’s Kendall Rogers) Wednesday that Florida ace LHP Hunter Barco would be sidelined indefinitely with elbow soreness. Obviously, the injury left a major void in the rotation. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan rewarded RHP Ryan Slater with the start.
Tennessee erupted for seven runs in the second inning, basically forcing Slater to eat up as many innings as possible to preserve the bullpen for the rest of the weekend. In total, Slater tossed 4.1 innings before giving way to freshman Anthony Ursitti. Ursitti proved to be a bright spot, tossing a career high 3.2 innings of shutout ball while only allowing one base hit.
Offensively, the Gators managed just three hits off a Vols pitching staff highlighted by Chase Burns, who improved to 7-1 on the season. Additionally, Florida want 1-8 with runners on base and 0-5 with a runner in scoring position.
The result: an 8-2 loss to open the series.
The Gators dropped the second game of the series Saturday, 3-0, despite a strong outing from starter Brandon Sproat.
Florida’s offense once again struggled, this time scattering just two hits (2-27, .074 BA) for the duration of the game. The Gators went 1-7 with runners on and 0-3 with a runner in scoring position.
Sproat was cruising through four innings before allowing a run in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Philip Abner and Nick Ficarrotta combined to shut out the Vols over the final three innings, but the offense’s struggles were just too much to overcome.
The Gators found a way to drop Sunday’s finale despite entering the ninth inning with a three run (4-1) advantage and one of their most reliable arms on the mound.
The Gators jumped out in front in the first inning when BT Riopelle was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Kendrick Calilao followed with a sacrifice fly that plated Sterlin Thompson and put Florida up 2-0.
In the fourth inning, Jac Caglianone crushed a solo shot to center for his first collegiate homer in his first career start.
Caglianone added to the lead with a sacrifice fly in the sixth that extended the lead to 4-0.
Tennessee got one back in the seventh when Trey Lipscomb scored Drew Gilbert on a groundout to second.
After a solo homer to lead off the ninth, Blake Purnell got to a two-strike count with two outs, before giving up a base hit to Evan Russell. The next pitch saw the game evened up with a two run single by Christian Moore.
Moore smashed a two-run homer in the eleventh that secured the win and the sweep for Tennessee.
On the mound, Brandon Neely pitched the best game of his career, going 7 innings, allowing just one hit (he had a no-no through 6.1 innings) and one run while striking out eight and walking two.
Florida had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth but Corey Robinson was stranded at third, where he was placed with one out. For the game, the Gators went 1-14 with runners on and 0-9 with a runner in scoring position.
Florida will face Kentucky in SEC play beginning Friday afternoon. The Wildcats are 22-18 overall and 6-12 in league play.