Florida (34-13, 14-9 SEC) got a two-out RBI single from freshman pinch hitter Jeremy Vasquez in the ninth inning, giving the Gators a 3-2 lead that Bobby Poyner would hold in the bottom half. It was a frustrating game for Florida with 12 men left on base.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Kevin O’Sullivan said on the postgame radio show. “We got a lot of leadoff men on and weren’t able to string together at-bats. We’re going to come out of this, it’s just one of those deals. It’s unfortunate you have to go through adversity. We showed a lot of poise.”
The best news for Florida’s long-term hopes was the performance of A.J. Puk. The sophomore left-hander went six innings, giving up just two hits and no walks while striking out a career-high 11 hitters. He hasn’t started a game on the weekend since facing Missouri on April 4. Puk was removed from the rotation after struggling against the Tigers and later faced a suspension that kept him off the mound.
O’Sullivan liked the way he looked in practice on Tuesday and wanted to give the 6-7 left-hander a chance to use his dynamic arm to make an impact. Puk is still viewed as an elite prospect in the 2016 MLB Draft even if the production hasn’t matched his talent, but he took a big step to making that happen on Saturday.
“It’s as good of, well no, it’s not as good of -- it is the best outing he has had,” O’Sullivan said. “I know he was anxious to get out on the mound. The ball was coming out of his hand good on Tuesday in intrasquad. I told him when we got here on Thursday that he was starting and I wanted to see the guy that I saw on Tuesday in practice.
“I’d like to tell you I’m surprised, but we’ve been waiting for it. That was dominant against a team that’s playing good. He answered the bell. I’m really pleased with the way he pitched today. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction and should give him a lot of confidence moving forward.”
After Puk came out of the game following the sixth inning, Georgia tied the game with a two-out RBI double by Mitchell Webb. Florida freshman catcher Mike Rivera put the lead back in the visiting dugout with a two-out RBI single in the top of the eighth, but Georgia tied it with a solo home run by Stephen Wrenn in the bottom half of the inning.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth, O’Sullivan sent Vasquez, and the freshman lined a single to right field to give the Gators the lead. After struggling to hit with runners in scoring position all day, O’Sullivan is hoping that Vasquez’s single can lift the team moving forward.
“I just told the team that there needs to be a game or an at-bat that charges us and gets us going,” O’Sullivan said. “I’m hoping Jeremy’s at-bat gets us going. We’re playing back on our heels a bit and waiting for the next guy to make something happen. I would hope we’d build on this.”
The decisive third game is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.