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Vols take one from Florida and even series

Tennessee (25-22, 7-16 SEC) pitchers Zach Warren and Andy Cox spread nine Gator hits over nine innings and walked just three more to keep Florida (39-8, 15-7 SEC) from ever gaining momentum in route to a 5-2 upset of the Gators at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville.

Florida and Tennessee are now even in the series at 1-1 and they will decide a winner of the three game stretch on Sunday at 1 p.m. One thing for sure, Florida needs to try and string more hits together.

The Gators had just two innings in the game where they had more than one hit. It looked like it might be a good day for the Gator bat in the first where they strung together three hits, but they only landed one run in the stanza when Buddy Reed’s dribbler shot down the left field line score Jonathan India. Reed would get the only other run for Florida in the sixth when he tripled and then scores on a wild pitch.

The eighth inning saw the Gators down by the final margin but battling. Pete Alonso and Mike Rivera both singled in the eighth posing a threat, but that was all the Gators could muster and didn’t score.

Florida junior starting pitcher A.J. Puk fought through six walks and a hit batsman in what was another tight strike zone to get through 3.1 innings and give up just two runs in all of those 91 pitches. The two came on a blast from shortstop Nick Senzel that landed somewhere past the left field bleachers. Brady Singer would replace Puk with bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning and pitch the Vols into an inning ending double play.

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan knew his big 6-foot-7 lefty Puk was off despite battling.

“[Puk] really just didn’t have command,” O’Sullivan said. “He threw over 80 pitches and didn’t get through four innings. It was a tough start. We got the big double play with Brady [Singer] when he came in. We scored a run there in the sixth, but we just didn’t execute some two-strike pitches there in the sixth inning.”

Singer entered his half of the sixth with a tie game with Reed’s triple and swiping home on the passed ball, but he came unglued in the sixth. The Vols Derek Lance would single home Leno Ramirez and Brodie Leftridge would hit a triple scoring Lance, helping the Vols post a 4-2 lead and that was the last we would see of Singer.

With Leftridge on third, Chris Hall would fly out to left field off of the arm of Kirby Snead and Leftridge would scoot home for the final score.

Painfully put, he Vols just had more hits back to back than Florida did and therefore they crossed the plate more.

“It is what it is,” O’Sullivan said after the game. “They made some pitches when they needed to. We’ve got to just keep working at it, it’s that simple. It makes no sense to just keep harping on the same thing. The guys know what they need to do. We’ve got to get better offensively. We’re going through a little bit of a stretch right now where it’s been tough, but we’ll certainly break out of it.”

Senzel was really good at short. Not only did he have the two run blast, he made several nice plays at short that kept the Gators from getting any momentum.

“I thought their shortstop made a bunch of good plays,” O’Sullivan said. “Their center fielder made a bunch of big plays. They made some plays. We put some pressure on them there. We hit some balls firm in the six hole and the shortstop made a heck of a play quite a few times.”

The Gators continue to get nice hitting from Pete Alonso who had two more hits on the day. He now has 19 multi-hit games, two behind team leader Dalton Guthrie.

The Gators will now try and land their 40th win of the season on Sunday as the two teams meet for the rubber match in Knoxville at 1 p.m. You can watch it live on-line on the SEC Network+.

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