The Florida Gators’ bats have struggled all season but they’ve been able to count on their pitching staff and their defense through the first five weeks of the 2017 season. The gloves let them down as the Auburn Tigers were able to finish off a sweep of the Gators (13-8, 0-3 SEC) on Sunday afternoon.
Florida committed a season-high three errors on the day, including throwing error by pitcher Frank Rubio that allowed the winning run cross the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
“Frank went the wrong way on a bunt play, he should have went to the first base line because JJ’s got to stay home. Then we made the errant throw to third base,” Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “I thought there was maybe some indecision there too, he should have hopped off the mound and anticipated going to third, could always reverse his feet and go to first. The bottom line is we just didn’t do enough offensively in the middle innings and just shot ourselves in the foot defensively today, which is certainly uncharacteristic of us.”
Uncharacteristic to say the least, the Gators entered the weekend with the SEC ‘s top-ranked defense. Errors paved the way for four of the Tigers’ six runs.
Auburn scored first in the bottom of the first frame with a single and a double but Florida stormed back in the third.
Mike Rivera, who sat out Saturday’s game after he was hit in the hand by a pitch on Friday night, singled into left field. After Deacon Liput flied out Andrew Baker gave Florida two runners in scoring position with a double to right center. Dalton Guthrie was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Jonathan India’s single to left tied the game at one and chased starting pitcher Davis Daniel. JJ Schwarz snapped an 0-16 skid with a two RBI single, extending the Gator lead to 3-1. India and Schwarz moved up 90-feet on a double steal and India scored on a Nelson Maldonado sacrifice fly.
Then the Gators’ defense let them down.
Jonah Todd’s one-out infield single got things going but a walk and a fielder’s choice later the Tigers had runners on the corners, two outs. Daniel Robert walked to load the bases. Dylan Ingram grounded a ball to Christian Hicks that should have ended the inning but Hicks couldn’t handle it, allowing Todd and Jay Estes to score. Robert scored on a wild pitch before Jackson Kowar could get out of the frame but the damage was done, the game was tied again.
Florida took the lead again in the fifth with station-to-station baseball. India led off with a double and Schwarz was walked. Maldonado moved the pair over with a sacrifice bunt and India scored when Hicks’ lofted a sacrifice fly into right field. Auburn tied the game in the seventh after catcher Blake Logan’s lead off triple and Will Holland’s sacrifice fly.
Rubio got himself into trouble in the bottom of the ninth when Logan led off with a single and Holland laid a perfect bunt down for a hit. Todd tried to sacrifice himself to advance the runners but Rubio tried to get Logan at third, his throw sailed high and the Auburn dugout exploded out onto the field after Logan tagged home to end the game.
“I do think that we got better offensively this weekend, but it is a bit frustrating,” O’Sullivan said. “We wanted to get out of here with one win which we weren’t able to play good enough defense to do that.”
This is the first time Florida has been swept by a SEC opponent since a 2013 sweep by LSU at Alex Box Stadium and the first time Auburn has swept Florida since 1987.
Florida will play at Stetson on Tuesday before hosting LSU at McKethan Stadium this weekend.