Special to GC
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 3 Florida (16-3) scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning but it wasn’t enough as the Gators dropped their Southeastern Conference opener to Tennessee (8-6), 6-3, on Friday night at McKethan Stadium. Despite the loss, UF is still 6-2 (.750) under Kevin O’Sullivan in league openers.
Tennessee starter Bret Marks (2-1) had his no-hit bid broken up in the bottom of the ninth inning by freshman Dalton Guthrie, as he placed a seeing-eye single into left field to lead off the ninth inning. That hit sparked the only UF rally of the night.
Following Guthrie’s single, Marks walked junior Richie Martin to put runners on first and second base with no outs. The Vols’ senior departed with a final line of 8.0 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K.
LHP Andy Cox replaced Marks and gave up a single to junior Harrison Bader on his first pitch of the game. The next batter, senior Josh Tobias, hit into a fielder’s choice but advanced to second base on a throwing error. The grounder and error allowed two runs to score, closing the UF deficit to four runs at 6-2.
Freshman JJ Schwarz then singled up the middle to put runners at the corners, prompting another pitching change for the Volunteers. Right-hander Andrew Lee, also Tennessee’s designated hitter, came in to close the game. After battling through a 12-pitch at bat, sophomore Buddy Reed got the best of Lee by singling up the middle to score Tobias, but it would prove to be the final run of the game. With runners at first and second, freshman Jeremy Vasquez hit into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Prior to the ninth, only three UF runners reached base all night, courtesy of an error, a walk and a hit-by-pitch. The last time an opponent tossed a no-no against UF was Tom McMillan’s seven-inning effort for Jacksonville on June 1, 1963.
UT opened the scoring in the top of the first inning with four hits, including three home runs. After sophomore Logan Shore (3-1) struck out the first batter of the game, UT shortstop A.J. Simcox notched his first career home run over the left field wall. Two batters later, first basemen Nathaniel Maggio and designated hitter Andrew Lee connected on back-to-back bombs to right field extending the Volunteers lead to 4-0. Maggio’s homer came after a single, making it a two-run shot.
In the third, the Vols extended their lead to 5-0 when left fielder Christin Stewart recorded his fourth homer of the season with a solo shot to right field. Tennessee added an insurance run in the eighth when Maggio doubled down the right field line and UT pinch runner, Chris Hall, scored when Andrew Lee singled up the middle.
RHP Frank Rubio relieved Shore and threw the final three innings to keep Gators in it. The sophomore allowed just one run on five hits.
Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan:
On Logan Shore’s pitching performance tonight:
“He (Logan Shore) left the ball up and Tennessee was obviously geared up for his fastball. He didn’t locate the ball and it was just that simple. He was one strike away from getting out of the inning down 1-0, but their guy (Nathaniel Maggio) had a really good at-bat. He just left the ball up. There really isn’t anything else other than that. He has to get all of his pitches going. They had a game plan to jump his fastball and they did, so credit them.”
On Bret Marks’ pitching performance tonight:
“He (Bret Marks) was outstanding. He was really good and he sunk the ball. His numbers were really good coming in, and he did exactly what he intends to do, and that’s to throw sinkers down in the zone. Tennessee’s defense played pretty well too for the most part.”
Senior third baseman Josh Tobias
On the Gators ninth inning rally:
“It’s good mentally for tomorrow. We came back and fought in the ninth and didn’t lie down. We’ll take that positive from the game [tonight] and bring it in tomorrow.”
Sophomore outfielder Buddy Reed
On tonight’s game:
“We fought until the end. That’s one of our mottos; that’s the way we play. [Bret Marks] had really good stuff tonight. I guess we didn’t adjust and see his pitches well enough. We’re going to come back tomorrow and work off this ninth inning as motivation.”
Sophomore right-hander Logan Shore
On his performance tonight:
“I felt like I bounced back a little bit [from the first inning], but I didn’t quite make the adjustments I should have. I gave up a home run again in the third. It’s just unacceptable, and I take full responsibility. This next week will be a good week for me to bounce back and make sure my stuff is on point for Ole Miss.”
* Despite the loss, UF still holds the all-time series edge, 145-81, including a 79-37 mark in Gainesville.
* In addition, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is now 6-2 in SEC openers.
* Tennessee hit four homeruns tonight. Sophomore Logan Shore allowed just one home run in 95.2 IP in all of 2014.
* Also, Shore had his scoreless innings streak come to a close at 23.2 innings when he surrendered a solo homerun to Tennessee’s A.J. Simcox in the first inning.
* Minus the first inning, Shore’s line was 2 H, 1 R. 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K.
The Gators and Vols will play game two of the series at McKethan Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m. Tomorrow and Sunday’s games can be seen on the SEC Network+<http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index#channel/secplus/> digital platform and can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Jeff Cardozo and Steve Russell.