UF offense freezes in loss to FSU

Florida's bats froze at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville Tuesday night, giving rival Florida State its second win of the season against the Gators. FSU edged UF 2-1, holding the Gators to three hits that were all churned in the second inning.

Sophomore left-hander Luke Weaver hurled a speedy start for FSU, retiring UF in order in a 14 pitches complete with two strikeouts.

Right-handed freshman Tucker Simpson, however, struggled for the Gators from the cusp of his start. Simpson let up back-to-back singles in the first and pegged No. 3-hole batter and designated hitter D.J. Stewart to juice the bases. After head coach Kevin O'Sullivan took a trip to the mound, Simpson recorded consecutive strikeouts before walking first baseman John Nogowski to gift FSU with a 1-0 lead.

Leadoff batter Josh Delph was the Nole to cross home plate for FSU's first run of the contest. His leadoff, routine fly ball caused a collision between right fielder Connor Mitchell and center fielder Harrison Bader to kick-start the Gators' troublesome first.

"We had miscommunication on a ball in left-center," O'Sullivan said of the play. "I thought the ball hung up there long enough to where I thought we should've caught the ball, to be honest with you."

O'Sullivan gathered his players in the dugout for a meeting at the close of the inning sparked by the left-center miscommunication, UF's two strikeouts and a lack of effort executed on a pop up foul ball. ,p> "I thought we were playing on our heels," O'Sullivan said. "We were playing our rival. We need to come out of the gates playing like I think we're capable of playing. I didn't think we did that in the first inning."

Florida's spark ignited in the top of the second, beginning off the bat of catcher Taylor Gushue who pulled a leadoff single into right field. Though senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit stuck Florida into a 5-4-3 double play, third baseman Zack Powers put the Gators back on base with his hard double off the right-field wall. Powers scored off left fielder Connor Mitchell's single into right-center field to tie the game.

But the Gators' offensive momentum froze at three hits. The orange and blue failed to produce at the plate throughout the rest of the game.

Simpson finished his outing after his work in the fourth inning. The freshman achieved 73 pitches against Florida State, allowing three hits, one run, three walks and three strikeouts. Simpson was replaced by fellow freshman Danny Young — Florida's left-hander who made his first career start against the Seminoles March 12th.

Young said facing FSU's offense earlier this month in UF's 4-1 loss aided him on the hill Tuesday night.

"It helped me know what hitters' strengths and weaknesses were," Young said.

Young boasted a solid first showing in the fourth, retiring FSU in order in five pitches. Weaver lasted through six innings for the Noles, tying his career-high of nine strikeouts. The sophomore right-hander finished with a line of 90 pitches, three hits, one run and one walk.

"To put it in perspective, I think we struck out nine times against Vanderbilt," O'Sullivan said. "We struck out nine times tonight. So (Weaver) deserves a lot of credit. He did a good job tonight."

Weaver was swapped for Bryant Holtmann who retired the Gators in order in the seventh inning at the helm of four pitches.

Though Young let up a leadoff single up the middle to FSU left fielder Marcus Davis, Florida's offense was able to chalk up a double play and a strikeout to hold the scoreboard at a tie.

However, the freshman's success thinned in the bottom of the eighth. Seminoles third baseman Jose Brizuela led off with a double into right field and Young balked to move him to third. This prompted a pitching change to right-hander Ryan Harris who registered a groundout for his one batter of work. Left-hander Daniel Gibson would take over for the Gators for the remainder of the matchup. While he struck out left-hander and center fielder Seth Miller, Gibson let up an RBI single to shortstop Giovanny Alfonzo to give FSU a final 2-1 lead.

"It just seems like every mistake we (made) cost us a run," O'Sullivan said.

The Seminoles finished the night with seven hits, while the Gators closed with three — all of which stemmed from the second inning.

"It's just unfortunate we weren't able to muster any more offense," O'Sullivan said. "I thought we pitched well enough to win."

Florida's head coach credited his team's struggles this season in its lack of making up for its mistakes.

"It's not like anybody plays a flawless game, but every mistake we make has been leading to runs," he said. "Offensively, we're not that type of team where we're going to score 8-10 runs a game, so it has been hurting us."

Tuesday's loss to FSU was a short break from conference play, but UF returns to SEC competition this weekend hosting a home series versus Ole Miss.

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