Gators Win Series in Nashville

Mike Zunino gave the No. 5 Gators their biggest series win of the season on Sunday with one swing of the bat. The sophomore catcher launched a three-run home run in the 12th inning to give Florida (39-13/20-7 SEC) a 6-3 win over No. 2 Vanderbilt and cause a three-way tie atop the SEC standings with one weekend remaining in conference play.

Nolan Fontana started the inning with a walk and moved to second base when Bryson Smith bunted. The Commodores (42-8/20-7 SEC) elected to intentionally walk Preston Tucker and went to closer Navery Moore.

Moore blew the first game of the series when he gave up a solo home run to Josh Adams and then an RBI double to Bryson Smith. Moore's struggles continued. Zunino hit an opposite field home run for a three-run blast that gave the Gators the lead for good.

The Gators finally took advantage of scoring opportunities, something Vanderbilt couldn't do. The Commodores had a runner reach second base in three of the final four innings, including a leadoff double that didn't score in the 11th inning. Tommy Toledo (3-3) pitched around the double and picked up the win for the Gators.

Florida got off to a good start early in the game when Austin Maddox launched a second inning home run to center field to put Florida ahead 1-0.

Vanderbilt answered back in its half of the second.

The Commodores took a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning on a solo home run from Curt Casali. The game cruised along for two scoreless innings, and it looked like Vanderbilt had the game in hand as starting pitcher Taylor Hill settled into a groove. Instead, the Gators put up a run in the seventh inning when Mike Zunino launched a solo home run over the left field wall.

Florida loaded the bases in the eighth inning and brought Zunino to the plate again in a crucial situation. The Florida catcher hit a deep fly ball to right field that was hit far enough to score Nolan Fontana, who singled to start the rally, from third to tie the game at three.

Karsten Whitson wasn't sharp, only lasting 4.1 innings and giving up five hits and three runs while striking out five. He threw 79 pitches and 54 of them for strikes.

Nick Maronde picked up the slack, throwing 3.1 scoreless innings to slow the Vanderbilt bats and allow the Gators to get back into the game. Greg Larson pitched into the ninth inning but was relieved by Steven Rodriguez who recorded two strikeouts in the ninth to send the game to extra innings.

The Florida win secures a tie between the Gators, South Carolina and Vanderbilt at 20-7 in conference play. The SEC doesn't settle ties for the regular season conference championship, so a tie would produce multiple champions. Florida hosts Kentucky next weekend, which is currently in last place in the conference. Vanderbilt travels to Georgia and South Carolina will play at Alabama.


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