JACKSONVILLE — The Florida defensive issues grew so contagious Tuesday night that even the Gators’ bat boy dropped multiple foul balls rolling down the screen behind home plate to the dismay of the crowd. On the field, the Gators committed five errors of their own, allowing the floodgates to open for the Seminoles in Florida State’s 7-2 victory at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in front of a sellout crowd of 9,276.
“When you have a game like this against a rival, a lot of it has to do with momentum,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We never could quite get the momentum and keep it on our side. I can’t really put my finger on it because we’ve been playing great defense all year.”
Only two of Florida State’s (20-4) seven runs were earned. It was the first five-error game for the Gators (18-6, 4-2 SEC) since their opening SEC series at Arkansas last year.
“That’s something that is uncalled for, especially with the defense we have,” second baseman Josh Adams said. “I take that personal, being one of the oldest guys out there. That’s our thing, we catch the ball. We’ll take care of it tomorrow. You won’t see that again. I promise.”
The first error of the game came from right fielder Kamm Washington, who ran towards a fly ball hit by Stuart Tapley in right-center field before pulling his glove back and watching it sail over his head. Tapley later scored on a single from Devon Travis.
Austin Maddox, playing in only his fifth game at third base, committed two errors on ground balls to his left. Kevin Chapman also had a throwing error on a bunt back to him in the ninth inning that he threw in the dirt to first base.
However, the most harmful error came in the fifth inning after Hudson Randall gave up a two-out double to Tapley, and Florida brought in Nick Maronde from the bullpen. Maronde got Sherman Johnson to hit a ground ball to first base but Preston Tucker got a tricky hop. Tucker tried to block the ball with his chest, but the angle of his body sent the ball down the right field line and allowed Tapley to score, giving the Seminoles a 3-2 lead and all the momentum.
“The error at first hurt us,” O’Sullivan said. “If we keep the ball in front of us, and even if we don’t get an out, they don’t score. That was a ball that Preston usually bodies up and keeps in front of him.”
When the Gators weren’t mishandling balls in the field, it was an issue of missing the big hit.
They took an early 2-1 lead in the second inning off a two-run home run from designated hitter Tyler Thompson. After that, the Gators recorded only four hits in the final seven innings. Two of those hits came from Maddox, who recorded his fifth straight multi-hit game.
Maddox led off the fourth inning with a double and sixth inning with a single, but didn’t score in either inning after the three hitters behind him, Nolan Fontana, Kamm Washington and Daniel Pigott, combined to go 0-11 with a walk.
The top of the order didn’t help out much either. Matt den Dekker and Josh Adams combined to go 1-8 with three strikeouts.
Florida State starting pitcher Geoff Parker was held out of their Sunday game against Maryland in order to pitch this game, and he went 4-2/3 innings, allowing two hits and two unearned runs. He also struck out four batters, which is what frustrated O’Sullivan the most.
“We’ve faced Parker multiple times,” he said. “When you see a guy over and over, I’m disappointed in the strikeouts.”
The lack of clutch hits frustrated the Florida team, eventually putting them in a hole too deep to climb out of. The lineup may not be filled with experienced players, but those who have been on the team for a while haven’t lived up to O’Sullivan’s expectations at this point in the season.
“Some of our older guys have to play better,” O’Sullivan said. “I could see freshmen who are inexperienced in an environment like this making some mistakes, but some of our older guys have to step up and play better.”
The Gators will return to action this Friday night at home when they host Vanderbilt at 6:30 p.m. to start a three game series.