Alex Faedo (9-1, 3.10 ERA) spun an absolute gem in seven innings of work. Recording double-digit strikeouts for the fourth time this season, Faedo fanned 10 Vols while allowing just one earned run on five hits. His control was impeccable, as he walked no one and hit just one batter all day.
Once Faedo left, things got a bit hairier. Dane Dunning came in and allowed two hits before being pulled for Kirby Snead. The junior lefty fared no better, as he surrendered a hit and walked a batter while recording just one out. Both of the runners Snead inherited scored during his outing, but they were charged to Dunning.
Seeing enough yet again, Coach O'Sullivan replaced Snead with reliable closer Shaun Anderson. After a fly out, Anderson walked the bases loaded before inducing a ground ball to get out of the jam. He worked a cleaner ninth inning, as he scattered a single between two strikeouts and ended the game with a groundout.
Offensively, Florida turned it around as the lineup plated nine runs and banged out nine hits. Four Gators scored multiple times today, and they all happened to follow each other in the batting order!
Kicking things off from the six-hole was Nelson Maldonado, who went 2-5 with two runs scored. After Nelly, fellow freshman Deacon Liput scored twice as well while drawing a pair of walks. He went hitless in the contest.
In the eight-hole, Mike Rivera was another Gator with multiple hits as he went 2-4 with a two-run home run, two RBI's, and two runs scored. His long ball was his eighth of the season.
At the bottom of the lineup, Nick Horvath notched his second collegiate home run with a three-run blast in the top of the eighth inning. He finished the day 1-3 with three RBI's, two runs scored, a walk, and his first collegiate stolen base. Quite a day for the sophomore, especially considering this was his first deep fly from the left side of the plate (I had no idea he was a switch hitter)!
Finally among the offensive standouts, leadoff man Dalton Guthrie got off the snide as he went 2-5 today with a double and two RBI's. Guthrie had been 0-7 before the final game in Knoxville.
The No. 1 Florida Gators are tied with the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks (36-11, 16-7 in SEC play) for first place in the SEC East after the Gamecocks lost to Kentucky (29-19, 13-11 in SEC play) in extra innings. Before previewing the week ahead, here are my final tidbits on another series victory for the Orange and Blue:
- The Florida Gators earned their 40th win today, making this seasons's squad the fastest team in school history to reach this many victories.
- Though he went hitless today, Buddy Reed was able to record his team-leading 21st stolen bag of the season.
- In addition to the long blast, Nick Horvath flashed some leather as he made a diving catch in the bottom of the fifth inning.
- Dalton Guthrie also made a fantastic defensive play as he ran behind second base, slid to one knee, and came up firing to record the final out of the fifth inning.
- Nelson Maldonado joined the defensive party as well with a diving catch in foul territory.
- Eddy Demurias actually made his first collegiate start in right field today, but he was replaced by Horvath in the bottom of the third inning.
- Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano was ejected in the top of the fourth inning for arguing a safe-out call at first base.
- Tennessee made five errors in the contest. Florida made none. The Vols had a total of seven errors in the series while the Gators had just one.
Florida has another big week ahead of them with four games this upcoming week. The Gators play their final non-conference opponent on Tuesday when they return to the Mac to play the USF Bulls (21-26). After what should be a victory, Florida hosts the No. 5 Vanderbilt Commodores (36-12, 14-10 in SEC play) for the final home weekend series of the year.
Vandy presents a huge series for Florida as the Gators seek to remain neck and neck with South Carolina in the race for the SEC East title. The atmosphere should be electric as Florida vs Vandy was nearly the matchup in the College World Series Finals last season. It is going to be an incredible series between two very talented and competitive teams! I can't wait!
Until then, however, the Gators will attempt to go 17-1 against Floridian opponents when they hook up with USF on Tuesday. It is highly possible that Jackson Kowar will get the start, considering that he hasn't seen game action since April 19th against Jacksonville (28-17).
Game time at the Mac is set for 7 p.m. It can be seen on the SEC Network and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.
As for Tennessee, they play the Belmont Bruins (28-20) at home this upcoming Tuesday before hosting the No. 15 LSU Tigers (31-16, 14-10 in SEC play) for their final home weekend series of 2016.
*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com
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