Gators split doubleheader with Alabama

After suffering a heartbreaking, extra innings defeat in game one, the Gators bounced back behind a strong pitching effort from Logan Shore.

Florida burned eight pitchers in game one and needed a strong effort from Shore, who struggled in his first two Southeastern Conference outings this year. The sophomore rebounded on Friday night, tossing his first career complete game and tying his career high with eight strikeouts. Florid won game two 8-1 after dropping game one 12-9 in 10 innings. The rubber game will be held on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The hit total (10) was still high for Shore and some of the outs were hit hard early, but the right-hander got outs when he needed to and limited Alabama’s scoring chances, especially in the second half of the game.

“That was the best start Logan has had all year,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We’ve kind of been waiting for that. Really pleased with how he threw, commanded all three pitches. Logan did a nice job of locating better.”

After giving up four home runs in his last two outings, Shore battled the mental hurdles over the last two weeks. A few command tweaks helped his off-speed pitches go for strikes more consistently, and he saved the entire Florida bullpen.

“Best one of the year so far,” Shore said with a grin. “We used a lot of guys early in the first game, so I needed to go out and save the pen for tomorrow. My off-speed was a strike today, which was a big reason I was able to keep them off balance.

The Gators gave Shore plenty of room to work with after posting five runs in the first inning. After Dalton Guthrie grounded out to start the bottom of the first, Florida strung together seven straight hits -- the only extra base hit coming on a two-run double by J.J. Schwarz -- and scored five runs. The Gators got RBI singles from Josh Tobias, Mike Rivera and Jeremy Vasquez. Game two of the doubleheader was the seventh straight game Rivera has an RBI.

Florida continued to stretch its lead out with one run in the third, fourth and fifth inning. Two-out RBI singles by Ryan Larson and Buddy Reed accounted for the runs in the third and fourth, respectively, and the first career home run for Jeremy Vasquez made it 8-1 in the fifth inning.

“Our plan was to attack,” Vasquez said. “We just jumped on the fastball, and if we got behind, change the approach and have good at-bats. Our offense today was really good, just swinging at fastballs and not chasing out of the zone.”

The first game was a disaster for the Florida bullpen.

After starter Aaron Rhodes came out of the game when he allowed one run in three innings, the rest of the bullpen combined to give up 15 hits, four walks and 11 earned runs over the final seven innings of the game.

The Gators used seven pitchers out of the bullpen, and four of them pitched during Alabama’s seven-run seventh inning, giving the Crimson Tide a 9-4 lead in the middle of the seventh inning.

Florida bounced back to tie the score after three runs in the seventh inning -- two coming on a long Harrison Bader home run -- and two runs in the eighth inning. The game went to extra innings, but the Crimson Tide tagged Florida closer Taylor Lewis for three runs in the 10th inning to finish a 12-9 game.

“The story of the first game was the pitching,” O’Sullivan said. “It just wasn’t good. It’s my job to figure out the roles and where we go from here. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and we’ve got enough talent. There’s no question, we have enough talent. We’re just not pitching very well right now, but it’s a long season.”

The Gators’ offense did its part, totaling 15 hits, four extra-base hits and nine runs. The pitching just couldn’t hold the lead.

Florida will send right-hander Dane Dunning (4-0, 1.59 ERA) to the mound for the final game on Saturday.

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