Gators even series with Auburn

The Florida bats struggled through the first three innings and faced a 3-0 deficit.

The Gators used a three-run fourth inning to tie the game while the Florida bullpen slowed the Auburn offense, allowing the Gators to even the series with a 4-3 win on Friday.

“You fall behind 3-0 and two of the three runs score where the ball doesn’t leave the infield,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We bounced back.”

Auburn starting pitcher Rocky McCord cruised through the first three innings, facing the minimum. After he walked Dalton Guthrie to start the fourth, Buddy Reed reached on an infield single and both runners advanced into scoring position on a throwing error by Auburn second baseman Melvin Gray.

Richie Martin scored one run on a sacrifice fly, and Josh Tobias followed with an RBI double to left field that brought in the second run. Pete Alonso then grounded a single up the middle to score Tobias and tie the game at three after four innings.

Two innings later, the Gators had two runners in scoring position with one out for Alonso. The sophomore first baseman lined a pitch to right field that was caught, but Martin beat the throw home to give the Gators the lead for the final time.

“I was fortunate to get the run in during that at-bat,” Alonso said. “Richie’s one of our speed guys, and he can outrun anything.”

Florida starting pitcher A.J. Puk was dominant in his last two starts but only lasted 3.1 innings on Friday. He loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning, and the Tigers were able to capitalize after for three runs. Puk fell behind hitters, walking three, and gave up three hits while striking out six hitters.

The Florida pitching staff needed someone to come in and slow things down, and Aaron Rhodes did just that. The redshirt junior went 3.1 innings, tying his longest outing of the season, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out three hitters.

O’Sullivan went to Kirby Snead to start the eighth inning, and after an easy three outs, he left Snead in to face a left-handed hitter to start the ninth inning. The Florida coach thought about going to get his sophomore and handing the ball to Taylor Lewis to get the final two outs, but Auburn wasn’t getting good swings off Snead. He stuck with his gut, and Snead collected his first save of the year.

“Sometimes you just go with your gut,” O’Sullivan said. “He got the leadoff guy and I just felt like they didn’t take very good swings off him. I didn’t want to overanalyze it. Sometimes you throw the book away and go with your gut.”

The outcome sets up an important game three for both teams on Saturday. The Gators continue to fight for a national seed in the NCAA Tournament while Auburn is trying to secure its berth in the NCAA Tournament. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.

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