Florida's Mid-Week Struggles Continue

If the Gators (39-14) were looking to maintain momentum into this weekend's series, Tuesday night didn't show it. No. 4 Florida's pitching staff was hit hard as Jacksonville (33-18) put up runs early and often to help the Dolphins cruise to an 11-2 victory in front of 2,987 at McKethan Stadium. The loss moved the Gators' record to 7-7 in midweek games this year.

"For whatever reason, this team, in midweek games, hasn't shown the ability to play good baseball," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "I've tried every play in the playbook, motivating them this way and that way, but it just comes down to the players playing. You just want your team to come out and play the game the way it's supposed to be played, and we do that a lot on the weekends."

After combing for 7.1 scoreless innings in his last two midweek starters, Florida starting pitcher Alex Panteliodis wasn't effective. His location wasn't sharp, and it was obvious from the start. Panteliodis hit Taylor Ratliff with the second pitch of the game and walked Daniel Gulbransen two batters later.

Kevin Lehane doubled under the glove of Florida third baseman Austin Maddox, and he scored on an RBI single from Jimmy Howick. Before the Gators could blink, they trailed 3-0.

"It wasn't my best," Panteliodis said. "I wasn't sharp and throwing my stuff for strikes. My off-speed wasn't there tonight. My fastball command wasn't there. They came out to hit, and they hit the ball on my mistakes."

It looked like the Gators would participate in the slugfest after a Nolan Fontana single and two-run home run from Mike Zunino in the first inning. It was Zunino's third home run in the last two games, coming in his first at-bat since belting a three-run home run that helped Florida win the weekend series at Vanderbilt.

His home run cleared the left-center field end of the bleachers and hit two-thirds of the way up a tree behind the field.

"He threw me a cutter that caught a little of the plate and was up some, and I was able to drive it," Zunino said.

That's where the Florida bats stopped. For Jacksonville, the offense was just beginning.

The Dolphins tacked on a run in the third inning with a solo home run from Daniel Gulbransen, but with two runners on, Anthony DeSclafani was brought in to pitch. He recorded a strikeout to end the threat and struck out the first two hitters in the fourth inning.

DeSclafani then gave up a single, triple and single as the Dolphins pushed their lead to 6-2 after four innings.

"We just left the ball up," Zunino said of the Florida pitching staff. "We didn't work ahead. We had to settle with throwing the fastball and they hopped all over it."

The knockout blow came in the fifth inning as Esterlin Perozo drilled a three-run home run to left-center field, pushing Jacksonville to a 9-2 lead. It would grow to 11-2 when Adam Brett Walker hit a two-run double to center field in the eighth inning.

The Gators now turn their attention to Kentucky for a three-game series beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. The Wildcats will hold ace Alex Meyer, a projected first-round pick next month, until Friday to throw on full rest. Kentucky is expected to throw Corey Littrell on Thursday. The Gators haven't announced their weekend rotation yet.

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