Game three finished thrillingly as No. 12 Florida avoided the sweep at the hands of No. 6 Tennessee in a 7-6 win Sunday. The Vols drop to 28-5 on the season and 9-3 in the SEC, while the Gators rise to 21-11 overall and 6-6 in the SEC.
“It’s always tough to lose,” Tennessee second baseman Max Ferguson said. “No one enjoys losing at all, but in everything, you have to always try and find a positive. We preach to win three in one week and that’s what we did this week. The opportunity to protect our turf was here and we did that.”
Tennessee had an early opportunity to capitalize on some Florida pitching mistakes but was unable to do so. Down 1-0, the Vols led the bottom of the second off with a four-pitch walk to Beck. Luc Lipcius then took a 3-2 pitch to right field for a double, putting runners at second and third with nobody gone.
Hunter Barco, Florida’s starter, was able to strike out Connor Pavolony to record the first out of the inning. Evan Russell was up next and battled at the plate, fighting off nine pitches before drawing a walk to load the bases with just one out.
Logan Steenstra strode to the plate but became the second out after swinging over top the fourth pitch. With two gone and bases loaded, Liam Spence stood in the box. The Aussie native took the count full and drew the walk to bring home Beck.
Tennessee hoped the rally would continue with Ferguson, but he struck out on four pitches to strand three runners on base. The Vols finished the inning with just one run, three strikeouts and three left on base.
Tale of two bullpens
The Vols turned to their bullpen in the sixth inning after Blake Tidwell gave them 5.0 innings of three-run ball against the Gators.
Camden Sewell relieved Tidwell and was touched up just a bit in the seventh inning after Kirby McMullen hit an RBI groundout to the third baseman.
The wheels came off for Tennessee in the eighth inning after Sean Hunley entered in relief of Sewell. Hunley struck out the leadoff man, but then surrendered a single and a double. Kris Armstrong came to the plate to pinch-hit for Jordan Carrion and took an 0-1 fastball to deep right field, giving the Gators a 7-6 lead, and the eventual win.
“Yeah, balls were up in the zone for Sean,” Vitello said. “It almost looked like he was underneath the balls just a little bit. I don’t know if it affected him at all, but he comes out of the bullpen to warm up and there is all sort of riff-raff going on. But the bottom line is that he is the most poised guy we have on this campus, I think. He should be able to come in and throw strikes and he did retire the first batter, but there were just some balls that he left up.”
On the other hand, Florida’s Christian Scott was untouchable on the mound. Scott entered the game in the bottom of the fifth and immediately struck out the first two batters he faced. The righty then sat down 11 straight batters before giving up a single to Beck in the bottom of the ninth.
The tying run of the base paths didn’t faze Scott, who got Lipcius to ground out to second base to avoid the sweep for Florida.
Up next for Tennessee is a trip to Cullowhee, North Carolina to face off against Western Carolina on Tuesday at 5 p.m.