Stuart McNair

Alabama rally can only get Tide briefly close to Florida

Cobie Vance’s three-run double in the eighth was Bama’s best effort

Alabama vs. Florida was  a close game at times, like from the bottom of the first through the top of the second and the bottom of the seventh through the top of the eighth. But for the most part the Gators were in control and took a 10-5 Sunday win over the Crimson Tide to complete a three-game sweep of Bama at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Alabama led 1-0 after the first inning, but Florida rebounded to take the lead with five runs over the next three innings and the Gators took a 7-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh. Bama had a nice rally in the bottom of the seventh to cut the lead to only two runs, but Florida used a pair of home runs to put the game away in the top of the eighth.

Alabama fell to 19-32 overall and 5-22 in the Southeastern Conference. The Gators are 38-14 overall, 19-8 in the conference. Bama is firmly in last place in overall SEC standings, while Florida has the best record in the league.

The Crimson Tide will close out the regular season with a three-game series in Nashville against Vanderbilt from Thursday-Saturday. Games one and two are set for 6:30 p.m. CDT starts with the series finale scheduled for 1 p.m.

"I thought (Florida) answered, for the most part, pretty much all weekend," said Alabama Coach Greg Goff. "You can't give a good team freebies. Two of their first three runs got on by walks, and then we made errors. They took advantage of the walks and hit-by-pitches early on. Our guys played hard, but hats off to Florida, they just beat us this weekend.”

The Crimson Tide took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with Chandler Avant leading off with a triple and coming in on a sacrifice fly by Hunter Alexander.

A walk and passed ball put a runner in scoring position for the Gators in the second and Jonathan Indias double tied the game. India stole third and then came home when third baseman Connor Short was unable to handle a ground ball. The Gators were in the lead for good at 2-1.

In the third, a one-out walk and a stolen base moved a man to second for Florida. After a groundout advanced the runner to third, a wild pitch by Bama starter Nick Eicholtz (1-3) allowed one to score to push the UF advantage to 3-1. With two down in the fourth, a pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases for Florida before a single by Nelson Maldonado scored two to make it 5-1 after four.

The Gators put up single tallies in both the fifth and sixth innings, including a home run by Dalton Guthrie, to extend the advantage to 7-1.

The Crimson Tide chipped away at the lead in the home half of the seventh, adding four runs to trim the deficit to two. Sam Finnerty began the rally with a one-out walk. With two down, Walker McCleney sent a double to right before Avant reached on a hit-by-pitch to load the bases for UA. In the next at-bat, Cobie Vance delivered a bases-clearing double down the line in left to score three. After stealing third, an errant throw on the play allowed Vance to come across and score, making it 7-5.

Bama hopes for a successful rally were doomed by a two-run homer by JJ Schwarz followed a batter later by Maldonados homer to make it 10-5.

Eicholtz went 4 2/3 innings, giving up 7 hits, 6 runs (5 earned) while walking 4 and striking out 2. Garrett Suchey went 1 1/3 giving up a run and Sam Finnerty finished up with three innings and three runs given up.

Florida starter Jackson Tower ran his record to 9-0 as he went 6 2/3 innings for the win.

Sunday was Alabama’s “Senior Day” honoring the Crimson Tide’s four seniors: Tanner DeVinny, Nick Eicholtz, Mike Oczypok and Taylor Poe. DeVinny (catcher) and Eicholtz (pitcher) each got the start, while Poe pinch-hit for the Tide. Oczypok pitched in his final home game in Saturday’s contest.

“I'm just so appreciative of our seniors and what they've done in my first year (at Alabama),” Goff said as he wrapped up his press conference on Sunday. “They've made my transition easy by being great guys. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to be able to coach them for a year."

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