(SPECIAL TO FIGHTIN' GATORS)
Florida (40-8, 16-7 SEC) took the series over Tennessee (25-22, 7-16 SEC) with wins on Friday and Sunday. The 2016 Gators’ team has now reached 40 wins faster than any other team in school history, taking just 48 games to accomplish the feat. The previous best was 52 games to reach 40 wins by the 1996 squad.
Florida got on the board first for the third time in the series, taking a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Peter Alonso led off the inning with a single, then made it to second on a ball hit to short by Nelson Maldonado that was dropped by the second baseman trying to get the lead runner. A walk to Deacon Liput loaded the bases. Rivera lined a 2-0 pitch to center field to score Alonso from third.
The Vols tied the game in the bottom of the third after Brodie Leftridge tripled to left center and scored on a wild pitch, the only run allowed by Faedo on the afternoon.
The Gators responded in the next frame, taking advantage of some UT miscues to plate three runs. Maldonado singled to left then Liput reached on an errant throw. After a double steal put the runners on second and third, Rivera picked up another RBI with a groundout to second.
Nick Horvath, who entered as a defensive replacement in the third inning, drew a walk then stole second to put another pair of Gators in scoring position. Dalton Guthrie stepped to the plate and broke an 0-for-14 hitless streak with a two-RBI double down the left field line to give Florida a 4-1 lead.
The Gators extended the lead in the sixth as Rivera continued to carry the offense. Liput led off the inning with his second walk of the day to set up Rivera, who drilled his eighth home run of the season into the left field bleachers. The two-run homer gave Rivera a career-high four RBI on the afternoon.
Florida extended its lead to 9-1 in the eighth inning. Maldonado singled for his second hit of the day and Rivera reached on an error to put two on with two outs. Horvath, who has only had a handful of at bats from the left side of the plate, connected on a 2-0 pitch and sent it over the right field wall for his second home run of the season – his first from the left side of the plate.
In the eighth inning, Tennessee got a pair of runs off the Gators bullpen with a RBI groundout by Chris Hall and a RBI double from Nick Senzel.
Faedo finished the day allowing five hits and one run through seven innings while striking out 10 in the victory. Reliever Shaun Anderson came in to finish things off and pitched 1.2 scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts.
Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan on Faedo’s start:
“He was really good. I think after the one inning where he gave up the run with the triple and wild pitch, he really settled down. I thought he did a really nice job today, he needed to. Bottom line, we won an SEC series on the road. They have a tough line up and he battled. They did a nice job, even right there til the end and he kept battling. I knew their lineup was going to be improved watching tape of their hitters. They looked like they were much more aggressive and there was a little more balance throughout their lineup. It was a really good job.
“You’ve got to keep things in perspective. This was our 40th win of the year. 10 years ago, that was the benchmark of having a successful year to get to 40 wins. Now it’s not that way. I don’t know what the number is, but it’s certainly not 40. At the end of the year in the regular season, 40 wins is not easy to get to. I’ve got to keep reminding myself we’re 40-8, 16-7 in the league. We’re right in the hunt for the SEC Championship. There have been games where we haven’t played our best, but at the end of the day, we’re 40-8. It’s a heck of an accomplishment. I reminded the guys of that today after the ball game and congratulated them.”
“We’ll take the series win and head back to Gainesville and get ready for South Florida on Tuesday night.”
*Florida picked up its 40th win of the season on Sunday. The 2016 team is the quickest team to reach 40 wins in a season, doing so in just 48 games. The previous best was the 1996 team, who reached 40 wins in 52 games.
*UF has now won 40+ games 24 times in school history.
*The winner of the opening game of the UF-UT series has gone on to win the series 27 of 31 years. Florida won game one 7-2 on Friday night and clinched the series with a 9-3 win on Sunday.
*The Gators have won eight-straight regular season series against Tennessee.
*With 12 strikeouts on the day, Florida has totaled 10+ strikeouts 30 times on the season.
*Mike Rivera had his team-leading 16th multi-RBI game with a career-high four RBI on Sunday.
*He is now tied with Alonso for the team lead with 44 RBI on the year.
*Alex Faedo recorded 10 strikeouts on the afternoon. It’s the fourth time this season he has totaled double-digit strikeouts.
*Dalton Guthrie picked up a pair of hits and has a team-leading 22 multi-hit games on the season.
*Peter Alonso singled in the second inning to bring his hitting streak to seven games. Nelson Maldonado singled in the fourth and has a six-game hit streak.
Florida returns home for its final four home games of the regular season, hosting USF on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. and hosting a three-game series with Vanderbilt beginning Friday.