Tim Casey / UAA Communications

Gator bats and backup fail Puk's effort in 5-0 loss to Vandy

The #1 ranked Florida Gators (42-9, 17-8) lost to #7 Vanderbilt 5-0 (37-14, 15-11) in a battle of two of the nation’s top pitchers. The Florida offense had no answer for Vanderbilt starter Kyle Wright (W 7-3, 1.70) who did not allow a Gator past first base during the duration of the contest.

The Commodores took an early lead in the second when freshman Julian Infante (2-4, 2 R, BB, K) hammered an A.J. Puk (L 2-3, 2.74) fastball out of the park in left field. The next four innings involved Wright (CG, 3 H, 10 K, 2 BB) and Puk (6 IP, 3 H, ER, 11K, 2 BB) auditioning for the horde of scouts that assembled to watch the start-studded teams on Saturday. Both pitchers reached double digits in strikeouts and surely added to their respective draft stock with near flawless performances.

While Puk pitched well enough to win (allowing only three hits and one earned run in six innings pitched), his performance was largely outshined by that of Wright. Wright, the SEC’s current ERA king, continued a troubling period for the #1 ranked team’s offense that has seen numerous, recent lineup shuffles prove largely insignificant. Florida Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan downplayed the significance of tonight’s output, given the level of competition.

“Offensively, we have to do a little bit more. There (are) some really good arms in this league, and you've got to understand that these days are going to happen when you're not going to score many runs on certain days."

Florida’s typically reliable bullpen was anything but, with four Gators combining to allow four runs and six hits in three innings in relief of the stellar (if not unlucky) Puk. The game was put out of reach in the eighth, when the Commodores pounded junior Kirby Snead for three runs. In truth, the Gators were lucky to allow only the three, as three more were stranded. Florida seemed to lose any hope of mounting a comeback when Puk’s pitch count forced his exit before the seventh.

Despite boasting an ERA below 3.00, Puk has won only two decisions this season. That speaks to the uneven run distribution the lefty has incurred this season. This can be highlighted by the fact that Friday night starter Logan Shore won his tenth game of the season . Puk remained upbeat after the game, as his performance should dictate nothing less.

"I thought I threw pretty well; I had a good feel for all my pitches today. It's always fun competing against Vanderbilt; they have a good team. (Kyle) Wright did his job today, and he pitched very well."

Offensive struggles aside, few teams (if any) in college baseball could have dealt with tonight’s display from Wright. O’Sullivan’s side is not often the victim of a three-hit shutout and it could not have come at a worse time for the confidence of the struggling Gator bats. He gave credit where credit was due after the game. It was reserved however, with the Florida coach visibly frustrated.

“Obviously (Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle) Wright threw very well.”

The Gators have another shot at winning the series tomorrow at 1pm, when sophomore Alex Faedo (9-1, 3.11) takes the mound in the decisive contest of the series.

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