Gators pound Vols to take the series

After a rough start to conference play, the Florida offense scored in five of the first six innings to jumpstart the team.

The Gators collected 12 hits and worked six walks while beating Tennessee 9-4 on Sunday to take the series.

“Tough weekend against a really good Tennessee (8-8, 1-2 SEC) club,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “To get no-hit for eight innings on Friday, the tone of the whole weekend was how we bounced back Friday night in the ninth to gain momentum. That helped us Saturday and into today. I was really pleased with our offense.

“To respond the way we responded after a really tough Friday night, (UT Friday starter Bret Marks) could’ve very easily put us into an offensive funk. They battled and fought.”

Florida (18-3, 2-1 SEC) got on the board with a solo home run by Harrison Bader in the first inning. Florida wasted a prime scoring opportunity in the second inning but got one run when J.J. Schwarz scored a run on a passed ball with two outs.

The big inning came in the third.

The top of the Florida order loaded the bases with two walks and one single. After Josh Tobias struck out, Buddy Reed lined a triple into the right-center gap to clear the bases.

Two innings later, Reed made a diving catch in right-center field to save a run and end the fifth inning, but he was also hurt on the play. O’Sullivan didn’t know the severity of the injury or what happened when he spoke to the media, but Reed is day-to-day and his X-ray came back clean. Before he came out, Reed’s impact on the game was felt in multiple facets.

“Big play in the game,” O’Sullivan said of Reed’s catch. “

Florida added another run when Schwarz scored on a wild pitch, pushing the lead to 6-1 after three innings. Schwarz followed with an RBI double in the fifth inning.

Bader kept the offense going into the sixth inning, lining an RBI double down the left field line to score Dalton Guthrie. On the next pitch, Bader scored from second on a wild pitch after Tennessee catcher Benito Santiago couldn’t find the ball.

“Just hustling,” Bader said with a grin. “You’ve got to keep your head up. It was a dirt ball, so you take third and then the catcher didn’t really know where the ball was at. I just kept rolling.”

Things weren’t as strong on the mound for Florida to start. Dane Dunning threw three innings and gave up just one run, but he allowed six base runners in that time and gave the Volunteers plenty of chances to score. The one run allowed came on a solo homer by Nick Senzel, but Dunning was pulled because he wasn’t throwing enough strikes.

With Florida leading 6-1 after three innings, Dunning walked the leadoff hitter in the fourth and his day was done.

“We just scored four and we walk the leadoff guy,” O’Sullivan said. “We don’t want to give them momentum. Danny was fresh and ready to go, and they had all their lefties coming up. I don’t want to take Dane out of the game, but we just scored four runs. This is a game of momentum.”

Danny Young was dominant in relief tossing, five innings and allowing three hits and one earned run to go along with a career high seven strikeouts. Closer Taylor Lewis threw the ninth inning and allowed one unearned run.

The Gators return to action on Tuesday at 7 p.m. when they host Florida State.

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