Gators Stymie the Hogs 10-0 in seven innings

Sophomore left-hander A.J. Puk fired a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts as fourth-seeded Florida (42-16) advanced to the semifinals of the 2015 SEC Tournament by eliminating fifth-seeded Arkansas (35-22), 10-0, on Friday night at the Hoover Met.

The game was halted in the seventh inning due to the mercy rule. With the triumph, the Gators will face top-seeded and top-ranked LSU (48-9) on Saturday at approximately 4:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.

Puk (8-3) continued a strong stretch of recent performances by reaching double-digits in strikeouts for the third time in his last four outings. The southpaw yielded three singles and he was one shy of his career-best total of a dozen strikeouts set on May 8 at Vanderbilt. In tossing his first career shutout, Puk was supported by a balanced Gator offense that banged out 11 hits from seven of its nine starters and had seven different players drive in a run. Sophomore Buddy Reed was 3-for-3, freshman Dalton Guthrie was 2-for-4 and scored twice, while freshman J.J. Schwarz was 2-for-3 with a couple of runs and an RBI.

Florida grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI grounder by senior Josh Tobias (1-for-3, two runs) that brought home Guthrie. Guthrie had led off with a base-hit up the middle against sophomore Dominic Taccolini (6-4), Reed drew a walk and junior Richie Martin advanced his teammates with a sacrifice bunt. Tobias plated Guthrie with a ground ball to first base.

The Gators tallied five runs on four hits and an error in the third to build a 6-0 advantage. Guthrie started the frame with a double down the left-field line, Reed legged out an infield single and Martin roped an RBI single into center field to drive in Guthrie. Tobias earned a free pass to load the bases with none out and end the day for Taccolini (2.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R). Alonso drove in Reed with a sacrifice fly into center field against senior righty Lance Phillips and Schwarz roped a base-hit to re-load the bases. A fielding error on a grounder by junior Harrison Bader resulted in both Martin and Tobias crossing the plate and an RBI grounder by freshman Jeremy Vasquez scored Schwarz.

Alonso tripled to deep center field to start UF’s fifth and an RBI grounder by Schwarz expanded the margin to 7-0. Florida was able to shorten the game in the seventh by scoring three runs. After Tobias led off with a single and Alonso walked, a wild pitch by sophomore reliever Josh Alberius pushed both runners into scoring position. A walk to Schwarz filled the bags and Bader was hit by a pitch to bring in Tobias. Senior Jacob Stone had Vasquez hit into a double play, scoring Alonso and moving Schwarz to third base, before Rivera ended the game with a two-out RBI single.

The Gators will play top-seeded LSU (48-9) for the first time this season at approximately 4:30 p.m. tomorrow on the SEC Network. The game can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Jeff Cardozo and Mick Hubert and will be shown on the SEC Network and available through WatchESPN.

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