Steven Branscombe, USA TODAY Sports

#1 Gators win in Rocky Top 7-2

No. 1 Florida continued their winning ways over the Volunteers of Tennessee Friday night. With some opportunistic batting and outstanding pitching from starter Logan Shore who found himself in a bind a few times, but pitched his way out of it for a win and his 14th straight decision. .

The Gators (39-7, 15-6 SEC) scored in the first stanza when Pete Alonso doubled in Dalton Guthrie and J.J. Schwarz who reached base via walk and a left field single. It put the Vols (24-22, 6-16 SEC) in an early hole that wasn’t going to be easy to climb out of.

Maybe that wasn’t all Shore (6.0 IP, 1 ER, , 7 H, 2 SO)  needed, but it was enough for Shore to battle through some tough innings while still gathering himself from being physically drained earlier in the week. A shortened strike zone made painting the corners pretty hard, and he just kept fighting.

BY the end of the sixth inning, Shore reached the 90+ pitch count and was replaced by Frank Rubio who faced one batter allowing a hit. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan immediately went to Dane Dunning (3.0 IP, 0 ER, 4 SO) who would close out the game.  

“I thought Logan battled,” O’Sullivan said shortly after the game. “It may not have been the best stuff he’s had this year, but he’s had a tough week. He had a wisdom tooth removed on Monday and could only throw a short bullpen on Wednesday. It was a tough week for him. He really battled and he wanted the ball tonight. We had an opportunity to maybe flip him and A.J. (from Friday and Saturday starts), but Logan being the Friday night guy that he is he wanted the ball and he pitched his heart out. He made some really big pitches when he needed to. Dane came in and did a really nice job.

The Florida bats were a bit lively on the night while facing freshman Will Neely. The Gators scattered 11 hits, the most they have had in the last eight games.  Solo home runs by freshman Jonathan India and sophomore Mike Rivera were key, but nothing really bigger than Alonso’s double in the first that really accounted for two runs.

Sophomore J.J. Schwarz (2-for-5), Alonso (2-for-4), freshman Deacon Liput (2-for-5), and Rivera (2-for-4) were all the multi-hit Gators in the game. Good outings from the 3, 4, 5, and 6 hitters in the lineup. Rivera’s two RBI mark the tenth time this season he has multiple RBI, he leads the team with the most multi-RBI games.

“It was one of those nights offensively, we scored in five of the nine innings, we tacked on a run in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth and two in the seventh to pull away a little bit.”

O’Sullivan would like to see even more form his team at bat. The Gators stranded eight runners on the base paths and they need to find a way to get those guys on the board more than they have been.

“Offensively it was a good night, but we left three runs on the board. We had runners on third with less than two outs in three situations and didn’t score. I talked to the guys at the end about it. It’s exciting that we won 7-2, but when you get into the postseason and you leave runs on the board or on the field with runners at third with less than two outs it’s going to come back to bite you.

“This was one of those games I was hoping we could pull away a little bit more and not have to use Dane for three innings but it got to the point where he got to 26 (pitches) and after two innings, he kept his pitch count down, but you’d like to be able to score those three runs that were left out on the field, make it a 10-2 game and maybe get some other guys in there to pitch. We weren’t able to do that and Dane finished up the game.”

The Gators continues their terrific fielding on the night. A great catch in left field by Nelson Maldonado, an over the shoulder snag by Dalton Guthrie at shortstop, an all-out sprint for a long hit to center field by Buddy Reed, and there were more. Florida finished with one error on a call that really could have gone as a hit when Liput couldn’t handle a chopper that bounced crazy deep behind second base.

“I thought Dalton played outstanding defense,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s really, really done a great job the whole year, but the last couple of weeks he’s made some really nice plays. I thought India made a nice play to start one of those innings, he had a tough hop. Buddy made a nice play going over his head, Nelson made a nice play in left field. We’ve been playing really good defense and that’s been one of the main things all year that we’ve been able to do. We haven’t walked many, we’ve been fairly consistent on the mound and we play great defense.”

Florida and Tennessee meet again Saturday at 4 p.m. Gators junior lefty A.J. Puk (2-2, 2.87 ERA) faces Vols sophomore lefty Zach Warren (5-4, 3.14 ERA).


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