Gators drop midweek game to Mercer

Florida's three-game sweep at Alabama over the weekend brought the team into Tuesday's matchup with momentum, but it didn't look like it on the field. The Gators managed to get nine base runners while losing to Mercer 4-2. Florida has now lost three straight midweek games to pair with its 11-game Southeastern Conference winning streak.

"It's disappointing coming off a good weekend at Alabama," Florida third baseman John Sternagel said. "As hot as we were swinging the bats there, it's kind of weird. I honestly don't know how that happens. I think everybody's scattered on how this is happening. We're going to work hard and make sure we're ready for Thursday."

Tuesday's loss felt similar to the last two midweek losses. Florida got on the board in the sixth inning to cut the deficit to 2-1, but sophomore Eric Hanhold couldn't keep it there. He gave up a two-run homer with two outs in the seventh inning, pushing the Mercer lead to 4-1.

In midweek losses to Jacksonville and Florida A&M, Ryan Harris gave up home runs that lost the game for the Gators. Even though Florida was already trailing before Hanhold allowed the two-run home run to Michael Massi on Tuesday, it erased any chances of a comeback.

The Florida offense was stagnant for the third straight midweek game. In the last three against Jacksonville, Florida A&M and Mercer, the offense has scored six runs with a .177 average (17-96).

Some of it had to do with the arms Mercer threw on the mound. The Bears came into Tuesday's game with the No. 21 RPI in the country and likely a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Mercer had the weekend off from conference play for exams, meaning they had all of their arms fresh for Tuesday's game.

Friday starter Brandon Barker threw the first three innings before Saturday starter Grant Papelian came in relief.

"They're weekend guys for a reason," Florida center fielder Harrison Bader said. "They pitched well, mixed well and threw off-speed in hitters counts. They pounded the zone a lot. It's hard to work a pitcher when he's pounding the zone."

Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan was frustrated after the game but noted that facing that number of quality arms made an impact.

"Just one of those nights," O'Sullivan said. "We saw some pretty good arms. They made good pitches when they needed to, and we couldn't get a big hit with runners in scoring position. It has something to do with their pitchers."

The Gators threw freshmen pitchers for seven of the nine innings. Hanhold's two innings were the only non-freshman innings thrown. The freshmen combined to allow six hits and two runs in their seven innings of work.

Florida returns to action on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. against Vanderbilt. The game will be shown on ESPNU.

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