Gators even series at Vanderbilt

The Florida bats were silenced by Vanderbilt ace Carson Fulmer on Thursday, but the offense broke out and starting pitcher A.J. Puk did the job on Friday to even the series.

Puk was dominant, giving Florida (37-14, 16-10 SEC) seven innings on the mound while the offense pounded out 10 hits to help the Gators secure a 7-3 win over Vanderbilt.

“We’ve got some tough kids,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said on the postgame radio show. “They know what’s at stake. One weekend isn’t more important than the other, but this is week nine and we need to start turning it on and playing our best baseball. I thought tonight was definitely a good game for us. Any time you can bounce back from a tough loss and play the way we did tonight, you’ve got to feel good about it.”

The rubber game is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday and will be televised on the SEC Network. The Gators will start freshman right-hander Alex Faedo (4-1, 3.27 ERA) against Vanderbilt junior right-hander Walker Buehler (3-1, 2.86 ERA), who is expected to be a top 10 pick in next month’s MLB Draft.

Florida was led on the mound by a second-straight dominant performance from Puk. The sophomore left-hander went seven innings, allowing five hits, two runs (both earned) and three walks while striking out 12 hitters. After striking out 11 over six shutout innings last weekend at Georgia, the left-hander looks to be settling into the potential that has been obvious since he stepped on campus.

“The story of the game was A.J. Puk,” O’Sullivan said. “He was a little wild early in the game, but he hung in there. He got his rhythm going, and then he was dominant. The ball had some life to it, down angle. He didn’t drop off in (velocity) at all. He held it seven innings, 120 pitches or so. That’s two in a row (good starts) for him. I’m awfully happy for him. He gets going like this, and we’ve got Logan (Shore) going again -- that’s a good one, two punch.”

The Gators got on the board with a two-run homer by J.J. Schwarz in the second inning. Harrison Bader followed with a solo homer in the third inning to give the Gators a 3-2 lead. Florida stretched it out with an RBI double by Pete Alonso in the fifth inning, and he scored on a wild pitch later in the inning.

The Gators looked rejuvenated offensively on Friday, and they’re hoping to carry that momentum into Saturday’s decisive third game.

“(Schwarz) swung the bat really good,” O’Sullivan said. “Pete swung the bat today, hit a ball to center field as hard as we’ve seen all year long. Bader’s home run was big for us. We got a lot of contributions from a lot of different people.”

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