Florida takes Tennessee series in extras

Free baseball set the stage for an SEC series snag for the orange and blue Saturday night. A tied, 2-2 contest moved Florida and Tennessee into the 10th inning — and it was only the only extra inning of play UF needed to nab the win. With the bases juiced, UF designated hitter Zack Powers pulled a grounder to short off UT right-handed pitcher Trevor Bettencourt to cap the Gators at a 3-2 victory.

Second baseman Casey Turgeon led off the Gators in the 10th with a single up the middle and fellow sophomore Taylor Gushue followed suit with a double to right field. Right fielder Justin Shafer was intentionally walked to juice the base paths with no outs for Powers.

Florida had held a 2-1 lead until the ninth inning when right-hander Johnny Magliozzi issued No. 9 hole hitter Derek Lance a one-out walk and allowed a single off the bat of Vols leadoff batter Will Maddox. It was shortstop A.J. Simcox's single through the left side that tied the game at 2.

Powers, a redshirt sophomore, said that he and his Florida teammates knew they had to continue their battle instead of getting down after letting the lead slip away.

"We knew that we hit last," Powers said. "We had to scratch and claw to just get the game won."

On an 0-2 count, Powers pulled his hit to short and his teammates erupted from the dugout to shower the DH in congratulatory cheers on the diamond.

The victory secured the conference series for Florida after taking Friday's opener 7-2 and it upped the Gators to 12-8 in the SEC and 25-19 overall.

For Saturday's 7 p.m. game, Florida started sophomore Jonathon Crawford on the mound against Tennessee's fellow right-handed junior Nick Williams. Crawford was originally scheduled to toe the rubber first Friday, but he rolled his left ankle in practice Thursday delaying his series debut.

Crawford took his time getting loose in his initial two matchups of the evening, letting up back-to-back hits — a single up the middle and a double down into left field.

However, the junior hurler's gun quickly heated up as he registered three consecutive strikeouts to bring the Gators to the plate unscathed. Crawford continued dealing from the trio of K's and retired 11 Vols in a row until pegging UT right fielder Pierce Bily in the fourth inning with two outs. However, Bily was left stranded and Crawford notched yet another strikeout.

The Gators starter held the zero on the board until the close of his outing in the fifth inning when he juiced the bases with a leadoff walk that was later followed by back-to-back, two-out walks. Crawford finished with a line of five strikeouts, two hits and three walks in 75 pitches. Left-hander Daniel Gibson took over the scoreless game and escaped the jam with a one-pitch pop out to short against first baseman Scott Price.

Zeros stuck the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth inning when sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue pulled a one-out, RBI double into left field to score Casey Turgeon who was walked just before Florida's catcher squared up at the plate. Before his two doubles late in the game, Gushue had struck out and popped out to shortstop.

"My first two at-bats — I don't know what I was trying to do," Gushue said. "Somehow, I just relaxed at my last three at-bats. I started to see the ball better and then just put some good swings on them. I really wasn't trying to do too much."

Florida's offense continued to produce into the seventh inning when third baseman Josh Tobias singled into left field on a one-out deficit. UT left fielder Vincent Jackson's throwing error allowed the sophomore to reach second base. Tobias soon was hit home off of freshman left fielder Harrison Bader's RBI single up the middle, widening UF's lead to 2-0.

UF's Gibson remained on the hill for Florida until he issued the leadoff walk to leadoff batter Will Maddox in four pitches in the eighth. The southpaw was swapped for right-hander Ryan Harris.

Harris let up a single to shortstop Simcox to put runners on the corners for No. 3 hole hitter Price. Maddox scored off the first baseman's sacrifice fly to left field to put the squeeze the scoreboard at 2-1. After registering a strikeout and a walk, the Gators called right-hander Johnny Magliozzi from the pen with two outs and runners on first and second when the Vols soon tied the matchup.

Out of their last nine wins, the Gators have earned the victory by just one run in five of them.

"You lose close ones sometimes, you win close ones some times," Powers said. "We've really battled to win these close ones lately. "

Florida will attempt the sweep Sunday at 1 p.m. Tennessee is scheduled to start senior right-handed ace Zack Godley (3-5, 2.99). Florida's starter is still to be determined.

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