No. 4 Gators Break Commodore Jinx

The Florida Gators stayed alive in the SEC baseball tournament late Friday night after a rain delay meant the game would end after 1 a.m. The Gators beat Vanderbilt for the first time ever in the SEC tournament. The 5-2 win saw the Gators scratch and claw for some runs early and finish the scoring with a bang and will now meet Alabama in the second game on Saturday's tournament docket.

It was something all of the other Gator teams with all the accolades had never done. The Florida Gators were 0-6 lifetime against Vanderbilt in SEC tournament play and on Friday night, with a bit of a delay, they were able to over come that obstacle and post a 5-2 win.

Gator freshman pitcher Hudson Randall (7-3) went 5 1/3 innings before leaving the mound for reliever Greg Larson. Randall gave up just one run on the night with five hits in earning his seventh win of the season. Larson would finish through the seventh inning, giving up a run and scattering three hits over an inning and a third. Steven Rodriguez would get the save as the closer on the night and he would give up just one hit among the seven batters he faced.

Gator coach Kevin O'Sullivan limited Randall who took advantage of the Gator defense that netted four double plays on the night.

"I was on a pitch count today so I came out trying to go as deep into the game as I could," Randall said following the game. "We got the lead early and I put up some zeros to help us out. My pitch count goal was 75 and I ended up at 69, I think."

Florida just tried to keep the ball in play early in the game and manufacture runs anyway they could. A walk in the third inning followed by a single, then a hit by pitch saw the Gators with bases loaded and the game scoreless. A double play grounder by freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana scored the first run of the day and would be all the Gators could muster from a bases loaded no out inning.

Vanderbilt pitcher Jack Armstrong was over powering at times, striking out five Gators in the 4 1/3 innings he pitched and erratic at other times walking four Gators.

In the fourth, the Gators managed two more runs after two singles, a walk, and a throwing error by Armstrong saw senior Matt den Dekker and freshman Austin Maddux score.

Finally, the Gators capped their scoring an inning later when Preston Tucker roped a line drive shot over the right field wall scoring he and Josh Adams for the Gators last of the five points.

The Gators continue their stellar defensive play as the conference's best defensive team. The four double plays were crucial to the final score of the game. O'Sullivan thinks his Gators are in a better mind frame than they were on the opening day of the tournament when they lost to LSU.

Still, he is reminded of what lies beyond the SEC tournament.

"I think the last couple of days we have showed more enthusiasm," O'Sullivan said. "Win, lose, or draw we just want our team ready to play next weekend."

The Gators will continue their march in Hoover (AL) as they face Alabama in the second game on Saturday. The game time is to be determined, but will be in the afternoon.

-- The Florida win brought the Gators' record to 42-14. Their 42 wins equal their season total for victories last season.

-- The Gators came into Friday's game with an 0-6 record in the SEC Tournament against Vanderbilt, but the victory means they have now won at least one game against each SEC team in the Tournament.

-- Florida won two elimination games in Hoover for the first times since 2002. They beat Mississippi State and Alabama to stave off elimination that year and Arkansas and Vanderbilt this year.

-- UF sophomore infielder Preston Tucker hit his first home run since May 8th against Alabama. It was Tucker's 10th home run of the season. He is the third Gator to reach double digits in home runs.

-- Two of the last three No. 1 seeds who dropped their first game in the tournament went on to win the championship. Florida lost on Wednesday to LSU, but have won both games since.

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