The Florida hitters couldn't create a big inning and lost their fifth of the last six meetings with Florida State, falling 5-3 in front of 7,869 in attendance at Steinbrenner Stadium.
"This loss hurts more than most since it's an instate rival," Florida right fielder Preston Tucker said. "With so many weapons in our lineup, we always think there's a chance to come back. Unfortunately there is a history of them jumping ahead and we couldn't pull it out."
The history comes after Florida State put up a seven-run first inning last year and cruised to victory. They batted around in the third inning on Tuesday to take a lead they would never give back.
Justin Gonzalez started the inning with a single and Florida State second baseman Devon Travis moved him to third with a double. After Mike McGee walked to load the bases, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan pulled starting pitcher Tommy Toledo and brought in left-hander Alex Panteliodis.
The first pitch he threw was lined off Panteliodis by James Ramsey and into foul territory by third base. It allowed two runs to score and sent Ramsey to second base. The next pitch was blasted off the left field wall by first baseman Jayce Boyd for a two-run triple. Two batters later, Stuart Tapley singled up the middle to score Boyd and give Florida State a comfortable 5-0 lead through two and a half innings.
The ball of Panteliodis' leg is what had the head coach most frustrated, as it could have turned into an inning ending double play if it got by him.
"If we would've pitched just fairly good in the third… I mean it was a nothing-nothing ball game when we went to the (bull)pen," O'Sullivan said. "Unfortunately that ball hit off (Panteliodis), and it was an odd play. I just wish we would've thrown the ball a little better."
Toledo (0-1) struggled with his control, going only 2.1 innings, allowing two hits, three walks and three runs (two earned). Panteliodis settled down in the following two innings, but his line wasn't much better. The left-hander went 2.2 innings, allowing four hits, a walk and two runs.
For a pitching staff that had success in the first seven games by not giving up free base runners, the Florida staff looked nothing like its former self on Tuesday. The pitchers allowed five walks and hit two batters for an uncharacteristic outing.
"I'll have to look at the tape, but I find it hard to believe that we're going to walk that many guys," O'Sullivan said. "I thought we threw the ball good."
The Gators tried to fight back in their half of the third inning. Zack Powers led off with a double and moved to third on a ground out by Nolan Fontana. Josh Adams walked to make it first and third with one out.
Preston Tucker lined a single into right field, scoring Powers, but Adams got too greedy and was thrown out by four steps at third base. It erased the momentum of Florida's inning, and Austin Maddox lined out to left field next, ensuring the Gators would only score one run.
"That hurt," O'Sullivan said. "It was a bad mistake. You can't make base running mistakes down four. I'm not quite sure what was going on, but you've got to be careful running the bases down by four."
The Gators got back in to the game in the sixth inning with some help from the bottom of the lineup. Florida State brought ace Sean Gilmartin out of the bullpen for the inning, and a Preston Tucker single and walk to Austin Maddox welcomed him.
After Brian Johnson struck out, Mike Zunino reached on a fielder's choice, but Florida State threw Maddox out at second. Kamm Washington then singled up the middle to score Tucker. Daniel Pigott followed with his own single to center field, cutting the Florida State lead to 5-3 after six innings.
Florida State closer Daniel Bennett threw a perfect two innings to end the game for the Seminoles, before Mike McGee struck out the side in the ninth inning to record his first save of the year.
The Gators return home this weekend to host Miami in a three-game series. First pitch Friday night is set for 7 p.m.
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