COURTESY OF UAA COMMUNICATIONS
Florida (21-11, 6-6 SEC) has played six straight one-run games, including all three against Tennessee (17-12, 3-9 SEC) this weekend. Despite losing the first two games of the series to the Vols, the Gators are 4-2 in that span and are 11-7 in one-run games on the season.
The Gators jumped out to a 5-0 lead through four innings and the pitching staff held on late as Michael Byrne pitched two scoreless innings to pick up his fifth save of the season.
Florida’s first run came in the second after loading the bases with one out. Deacon Liput’s grounder was enough to score Nelson Maldonado from third but Tennessee escaped without any further damage.
In the third, the Gators added another run as JJ Schwarz scored easily on a wild pitch.
The Vols got in a jam in the fourth after a pair of singles and hit batter loaded the bases with no outs. Dalton Guthrie drew a four-pitch walk to score one run and Schwarz lifted a ball to right field for a sacrifice fly.
Mike Rivera laced a single through the right side to make it 5-0.
Tennessee started to battle back in the sixth inning, knocking starter Jackson Kowar out of the game with three-straight singles to start the frame.
Garrett Milchin took the mound out of the bullpen and hit the first batter he faced for the Vols first run of the game. After a pop out at second, UT got another run on a groundout and made it 5-3 on a pinch-hit single by Luc Lipcius.
In the eighth inning, Tennessee got another run back on Andre Lipcius’ RBI single before Byrne came in and recorded the final six outs.
Kowar improved to 5-0 on the season despite allowing three runs on five hits. Milchin did not allow a run in 1.1 innings and Byrne retired six of seven batters to close the game.
At the plate, Maldonado and Hicks each recorded a pair of hits on the afternoon.
Florida has a tough road trip coming up, first heading to Tallahassee on Tuesday night to face No. 19 Florida State at 6 p.m. The Gators will travel to Nashville for three games next week at Vanderbilt, beginning Thursday night at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan Quotes:
On Dalton Guthrie’s over the should catch in the 8th inning:
“It was a game-saving play, to be honest with you. The teaching moment is this: he went 0-for-4 at the plate today but saved the game with his glove. He’s a really good player. He understands he plays both sides of the ball. You won’t see a better play by a shortstop, I don’t think, at any level. If that ball drops in, we’re in trouble. But obviously he made a great play.”
Overall takeaways from the weekend:
“I think offensively we were better. Two of the three games we had double-digit hits. I think the approaches are getting better. Alex needs to pitch better on Friday nights. Brady was outstanding again. I thought our baserunning was better today. We made some mistakes yesterday that cost us on the basepaths. Let’s face it. We’re 6-6 in the league, four of our six losses are by one run. We just don’t have a lot of margin for error. We’re going to have to do the little things right. We hit-and-ran a bunch this weekend and some guys did a nice job hitting the ball through the three hole. We probably need to get another inning or two out of Jackson, he was cruising through five. They had the drag bunt in the sixth, that wasn’t the problem, it was the 3-0 count to the next batter and the wheels kind of start going. I thought Garrett came in and did a nice job, I didn’t want to use him that long. Kirby came in and got a couple outs. Michael Byrne did his thing. It’s not ideal to use him three games in a row, but at this stage this is an important game. It’s a two-game swing, from possibly 5-7 to 6-6. He will not pitch on Tuesday at all. We’ll give him three days off and hopefully Alex will give us a great start on Thursday and hopefully we don’t have to use him then either.
“We’ll start Tyler Dyson on Tuesday [at Florida State]. We haven’t used him in a while. Michael Byrne’s kind of developed into a guy that we trust in so many one-run games. We’ll get [Dyson] out there, and we’ve got a bunch of guys that need to get out there and give us one inning apiece.”