Florida led its rival Georgia Bulldogs 10-6 headed into the ninth inning Friday. Closing pitcher Brandon Neely entered looking to make quick work of the ‘Dawgs and go home. Instead, he loaded the bases on singles.
Still, Florida already hit grand slams twice in the game. Surely lighting can’t strike a third time, right?
No. 3 Florida (28-7, 9-4 SEC) fell to Georgia (19-15, 4-9 SEC) 13-11 Friday.
“It was a combination of things,” said Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “But the bottom line is, it’s disappointing, but we can let this leak into them all.”
Friday night starter Brandon Sproat let up a leadoff hit to open the contest. He worked quickly through the next three batters, including a punchout to close the first frame.
The Gators took advantage of a pair of walks and a hit batter to load the bases in the bottom of the first. They couldn’t take advantage and closed the first scoreless with all three runners stranded.
Florida and the ‘Dawgs traded 1-2-3 second frames to close the inning 0-0.
Things got shaky for Sproat in the third. A walk put the leadoff batter on and a passed ball advanced him to second. Then Sproat fielded a hit and mistakingly threw to second instead of first, allowing the runner to advance to third. A sacrifice groundout plated the runner to give Georgia the opening lead, 1-0.
It went from bad to worse after Sproat was taken yard for a 2-run homer. Midway through the third, Georgia led Florida 3-0.
Georgia’s pitching ran into some speed bumps of its own in the bottom frame. Junior outfielder Wyatt Langford was walked. Sophomore two-way player Jac Caglianone singled to advance Langford to third. Then, junior shortstop Josh Rivera put up a sacrifice fly to get the Gators on the board.
Left-handed starter Jaden Woods threw a wild pitch to advance Caglianone and hit senior catcher BT Riopelle to put the tying run on base with one out. Heyman walked to load the bases for Florida.
Kurland stepped to the plate and went the distance for a grand slam to clear the bases and the Gators’ deficit. After the opening third, Florida led 5-3.
Sproat struck out two in the top of the fifth to keep Georgia behind. Florida stranded loaded bases to keep in 5-3 after the fifth.
Florida sparked an offensive onslaught in the sixth to expand its lead.
It started with a trio of singles from Langford, Caglianone and Rivera to score a run. Riopelle walked to load the bases.
Heyman approached the plate. He took the first called strike, then turned on the 0-1 pitch to take the ball deep for a grand slam and a 10-4 Gators’ lead.
Both sides produced 1-2-3 innings to keep a 10-4 score through seven.
Georgia began to make some noise in the eighth after sophomore lefty Philip Abner entered in relief of Sproat. Charlie Condon took his third ball of the night past the outfield wall, a UGA school record, and closed the gap to 10-6. Abner was able to close the inning with a lead.
Florida stranded Riopelle to close the eighth. Neely entered for the ninth and the potential close, but to no avail. The ‘Dawgs put up seven runs in the ninth for a comeback stand.
The Gators put up a run and loaded the bases in the ninth but couldn’t complete the effort and left Condron with a loss.
“You could see it in [the players’] faces they’re disappointed,” O’Sullivan said.
Tomorrow, Florida will look to avoid a series loss against the ‘Dawgs. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. and the game will broadcast on the SEC Network.