On the mound Rocky McCord allowed four runs on five hits in five and one/thirds innings for the Tigers with reliever Trey Wingenter pitching two and two/thirds innings of scoreless for the Tigers. Florida starter A.J. Puk made it just three and one/third innings, allowing three runs on three hits. Relievers Aaron Rhodes and Kirby Snead were the story of the game, giving up just one hit in five and two/thirds innings of relief for the Gators.
“They started getting guys on,” Coach Sunny Golloway said. “We walked the leadoff and then misplayed a leadoff. Those are the things that ended up hurting us, but at this point I told the players that you just wash it and come back and play well tomorrow. Don’t worry about it, just play well tomorrow.”
At the plate the Tigers managed just four total hits with Anfernee Grier getting one of those, but the sophomore struck out his final three times at the plate. He now has just three hits in his last 21 at-bats with 16 strikeouts. Even though it has been a struggle Golloway said they’re not going to abandon one of their best players.
“Clearly we need a couple of guys, including Anfernee, to get back on,” Golloway said. “Everybody goes through that in life, but we stick with our guys. We help them get through it and we want him to get through it as quickly as he can and be that guy that drives in runs for us, and he will.”
Facing a pitcher that had been dominant his last two times out in Florida starter A.J. Puk, the Tigers took advantage of some help from the Gators to take the early lead in the second inning. Struggling with his control, Puk walked Damon Haecker and Blake Logan to give the Tigers some life and bring Alex Polston to the plate. Hoping to bunt the runners over, Polston’s pop-up landed softly down the third base line and allowed him to reach safely with a single to load the bases with nobody out.
Doing his job, junior Jordan Ebert’s fly ball to left field easily scored Haecker from third and was deep enough to get Logan to third base with one out. Attempting a squeeze, Cody Nulph’s bunt went under Puk’s glove to allow run No. 2 to score and put runners on first and second once again for the Tigers Following a strikeout, Melvin Gray singled through the left side to score Polston and make it a 3-0 Auburn lead.
Cruising through the first three innings, McCord ran into his first trouble in the fourth and it started with a leadoff walk. With Dalton Guthrie on the move from first, Buddy Reed’s ground ball was snared on a diving play by Gray at second, but his throw was wild at first for an error. That put runners on second and third with nobody out for the Gators.
Following a sacrifice fly to put Florida on the scoreboard, Josh Tobias sliced a double the other way to plate Reed and cut Auburn’s lead to one. Continuing the comeback, Peter Alonso singled up the middle to easily score the speedy Tobias and tie the game at three.
With Rhoads now on for the Gators, Auburn’s bats were silenced the next two innings, allowing Florida to take the lead. Leading off, Reed hit a ground ball to second base and beat the throw to first for the infield single. Following a stolen base, shortstop Richie Martin walked to put a pair of runners on for Tobias. Attempting to bunt the runners over, Tobias instead sent it right back to McCord. His throw to Kyler Deese at third cut down the lead runner.
That was all for McCord as Wingenter came on in relief for the Tigers, but before he could record an out the Gators pulled off a double steal to move both runners into scoring position with just one out. It proved to be a huge play as Alonso lined a pitch directly at Damon Haecker in right field. His throw was in time at the plate, but Martin slid in under the tag of Blake Logan to put Florida in front for the first time.
That’s all the Gators would need as they shut down the Tigers the rest of the way to secure the victory.
Auburn and Florida will finish off the series at noon central time on Saturday with sophomore Keegan Thompson back on the mound for the Tigers in a starting role. The game can be seen online at SEC Network Plus/WatchESPN.
SEC Standings Entering Final Day
LSU 20-8 45-9 at South Carolina
Vanderbilt 20-9 39-16 at Alabama
Texas A&M 18-9 43-9 at Ole Miss (2)
Florida 18-11 39-15 vs. Auburn
Arkansas 16-12 32-20 at Georgia
Missouri 15-14 29-25 vs. Kentucky
Ole Miss 14-14 29-25 vs. Texas A&M (2)
Kentucky 13-15 29-24 at Missouri
Auburn 13-16 34-21 at Florida
South Carolina 13-16 32-23
Alabama 11-18 29-26 vs. Vanderbilt
Georgia 10-18 26-27 vs. Arkansas
Tennessee 10-18 23-25 vs. Mississippi State
Mississippi State 8-21 24-29 at Tennessee