Gators lack clutch hit, fall in upset

Florida had its chances on Friday. The Gators had 16 base runners but managed to turn it into only two runs. The search for the big hit continued into the late innings but never produced what Florida needed. A three-run first inning proved to be the difference in College of Charleston's 3-2 win over the Gators.

After a sterling regular season, Logan Shore's first inning was a nightmare. He gave up seven hits and three runs, recording only one out on his own on a strikeout. The other two outs of the inning came after Florida pulled the hidden ball trick to get an out following a two-run double by cleanup man Nick Pappas. The inning ended on a single by right fielder Brandon Glazer, and Florida left fielder Buddy Reed threw out a runner at the plate.

The Cougars had two doubles and five singles in their long top of the first inning.

"They came out and swung the bats good," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He elevated the ball, it was in the middle of the plate and he wasn't getting as much sink as he usually was. I thought he pitched really good for the next four innings."

Shore stabilized the game throughout the rest of his outing and Justin Shafer was perfect in four innings of relief work.

Florida had a chance to cut into the lead during the third inning. Three straight one-out singles loaded the bases for All-SEC catcher Taylor Gushue, but the junior swung through a high fastball to strike out. Right fielder Braden Mattson followed by doing the same, ending Florida's threat.

The Gators did the same the next inning.

Florida loaded the bases with a Reed bunt single and walks to Josh Tobias and Casey Turgeon. The threat ended with Richie Martin flying out to right field, and the Gators stranded eight runners through the first four innings. Florida ended the game with 11 runners left on base.

"I'm just disappointed we didn't score more runs tonight," O'Sullivan said. "I didn't think our approach early on was good. We were getting beat with fastballs. The way we swung the bats, I think we were tentative. I don't know why. We took some really good pitches we could've got the bat head out on and done some damage.

"Let's face it -- you've got to score more than two runs to win in tournament play."

The Gators came back with a threat in the fifth inning but limited it with a base running mistake. After Harrison Bader singled and Gushue walked to start the inning, Braden Mattson tattooed a ball to the left-center gap. College of Charleston center fielder Morgan Phillips made a leaping attempt, but the ball knocked off his glove and fell to the ground.

Gushe was trying to tag up on first base, and while watching the baseball, Mattson passed him on the base paths. Mattson was called out and the runners only advanced to second and third. Backup catcher Mike Fahram pinch-hit next and grounded out to shortstop, scoring the first run for Florida, but the base running mistake kept Florida out of a possible big inning.

"I think all three of them lost sight of the ball," O'Sullivan said. "I think they thought he caught the ball, and obviously it was a big point in the game. You've got to keep your head up and can't pass up the runner. That was a big point in the ball game."

After putting runners on the corners with back-to-back one-out singles in the sixth inning, Richie Martin lined a ball to right-center field for a sacrifice fly, cutting the deficit to 3-2. But that's where it would stay.

Florida now falls into the loser's bracket of the Gainesville Regional and will face North Carolina at 1 p.m. on Saturday. If there's any comfort for the Gators, it's that they were in the same position last week. Florida fell into the loser's bracket of the SEC Tournament and fought back into the final game.

"If we win, we advance. If we lose, the season is over. It's that simple," O'Sullivan said.

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