Gators Smack Vols, Earn SEC Tourney Bid

Sophomore Avery Barnes matched a school and SEC record with 10 runs batted in, featuring his first career grand slam in the second inning and a three-run dinger in the eighth, as Florida (28-27/15-14 SEC) punched its ticket to next week's SEC Tournament with a 20-2 victory over Tennessee (32-23/12-15 SEC) on Friday night at McKethan Stadium.

Barnes (3-for-5, four runs) entered the game with one career homer and had driven in 15 runs on the season.

"We did a wonderful job of working counts, taking walks and making big plays offensively, tonight," said head coach Pat McMahon. "I am very proud of Avery's performance. He was solid equally at the plate and making clutch plays, defensively, like his double play. Though we clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament, our emphasis is that tomorrow is a series opportunity. Our goal is a series win before we look beyond that. I am anxious to see how Billy (Bullock) responds and steps up tomorrow."

Freshman Cole Figueroa (2-for-6) chipped in with a career-best five RBI and belted two home runs, a grand slam in the third and a solo shot in the sixth. After yielding two runs in the first, junior Bryan Augenstein (7-5) worked eight innings, scattering nine hits and registering nine strikeouts, to post his third-straight win. Florida also took advantage of 11 walks and five hit-by-pitches on its way to its season-high run total in SEC play.

"I concentrated on what needed to be done today," Augenstein said. "I have been working on my delivery, and in my last three games, I have been a lot more relaxed. I've been locating my breaking ball better, and I have more confidence in my slider. It is a relief to know we're going to Hoover, but we still have to come out fighting tomorrow so we can get the best seed possible."

Tennessee used four-consecutive two-out hits off Augenstein to seize a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. The right-hander retired the first two Vols before yielding back-to-back singles to junior J.P. Arencibia and freshman Yan Gomes. Freshman Jeff Lockwood put the visitors on the board with an RBI single into right center, and sophomore Tony Delmonico followed with a bloop single into center field.

Barnes connected on his first career grand slam to give the Gators a 4-2 advantage in the second. Senior Brian Leclerc drew a leadoff walk, freshman Jonathan Pigott laced a single and sophomore Cody Neer earned a free pass from freshman Nick Hernandez (4-3) to load the bags with none out. Barnes sent a 3-1 offering from the lefty over the right-field fence for his second big fly of the campaign and UF's fourth grand slam. After junior Jon Townsend was hit by a pitch and senior Matt LaPorta was walked intentionally for the seventh consecutive time in the series, Hernandez (1.2 IP, 2 H, 4 R) was pulled in favor of sophomore Danny Wiltz.

"You dream about having a big night like this," Barnes said. "I wasn't even focused on how many hits I had. I'm not exactly a power hitter, so I was just trying to play hard. It is a good feeling to make the SEC Tournament since we couldn't go last year. It makes it special because this will be my first time in Hoover. We just have to take it as serious as possible from here."

Florida sent 10 batters to the plate and added six more runs in the third, highlighted by Figueroa's first career grand slam. Leclerc started things off with a walk and Pigott and Neer were both plunked to fill the sacks. Wiltz walked in two runs with free passes to Barnes and freshman Hampton Tignor and was replaced by sophomore Lance McClain. Figueroa hammered the reliever's first pitch to right for his 10th dinger to clear the bases.

UF increased its lead to 11-2 in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk to LaPorta. Neer led off by being hit by a pitch, Tignor walked with one down and Townsend collected Florida's fifth HBP of the night to load the bases with two out. LaPorta then picked up his team-leading 50th RBI with his 49th walk. In the sixth, Figueroa blasted his second HR of the night with no one aboard for a 12-2 cushion.

The Gators plated three more runs on four hits in the seventh to take a commanding 15-2 lead. Leclerc punched a one-out single off freshman Ryan Butner and Pigott followed with a base-hit to right. Barnes increased his RBI total to seven with a two-run, two-out knock into left and Tignor provided a run-scoring single up the middle.

The offensive outburst continued for Florida in the eighth, as the squad tallied five more runs on four hits, featuring a three-run jack to right center by Barnes and an RBI single by freshman Matt den Dekker. The Gators finished with 20 runs on 14 hits, receiving contributions from nine different players on Senior Night. Juniors Julio Borbon and Andy Simunic had two hits apiece for the Vols. Freshman Billy Bullock (2-6, 5.64) will start Saturday's regular-season finale at 11:30 a.m. on Sun Sports against a Tennessee pitcher to be determined.

Courtesy UF Sports Information

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