Tennessee powers its way over Florida

The Volunteers came into the game with four home runs in 13 games this season, and they doubled it after three innings on Friday.

Tennessee crushed four home runs while starting pitcher Bret Marks tossed eight no-hit innings on its way to a 6-3 win over Florida in the series opener at McKethan Stadium.

Florida starting pitcher Logan Shore battled a nemesis on Friday that he hadn’t dealt with much in his career. Coming into the night, Florida’s ace had allowed one home run in 115 career innings. Against the Volunteers on Friday, he gave up three in the first inning and four in the first three innings.

Tennessee started it with a solo home run by A.J. Simcox with one out in the first inning, and Nathaniel Maggio and Andrew Lee launched back-to-back home runs before the inning was over. It was the first time Tennessee hit back-to-back home runs since May 18, 2010.

“It’s unacceptable on my part. I put it on myself tonight for the loss,” Shore said. “It’s unacceptable to come out there with everything I’ve gone through last year and not go out there and compete the way we know how to compete. That’s what happens when you face SEC teams who can hit and you don’t execute pitches.

“It was just missing spots. Fastball was up, didn’t command my secondary for strikes. I didn’t have my slider, didn’t have my changeup. That’s unacceptable.”

The home runs also snapped a scoreless streak of 23.2 inning for Shore that dated back to last season, including his first 19.1 innings of the 2015 season.

After the first inning, Shore settled in and gave up just two hits and one run over his final five innings of work. But the damage was already done.

“He got the ball up,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “The ball was up. They obviously were geared up for his fastball and he didn’t locate the ball. It’s that simple. There’s really nothing else other than that. They had a game plan to jump the fastball, and they did.”

The Florida offense struggled to do much of anything for the first eight innings. The Gators had just three base runners, coming on a walk, hit by pitch and an error. None of the outs were hit hard, as Marks cruised through the first eight innings and took the mound in the ninth inning three outs away from being the first team to no-hit Florida since 1963.

Freshman leadoff hitter Dalton Guthrie grounded a single into left field to start the inning, breaking up the no-hitter, and the next three hitters reached to load the bases. Florida continued to fight, bringing the tying run to the plate in Jeremy Vasquez with one out, but he rolled into a double play to end the game.

Even with the down performance for the offense, the message after the game was to use the success in the last inning as momentum heading into tomorrow’s game.

“It helps a lot. It would’ve been disappointing to go 1, 2, 3 or just be satisfied we broke up the no-hitter. We scored three and got the tying run to the plate. We’re going to build on that and have some momentum. We got both of their top relievers in the ball game, so we got a look at both of those guys.”

Florida and Tennessee face off again at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The Gators will send sophomore left-hander A.J. Puk (3-1, 3.72) to the mound.

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