After taking losses on Friday and Saturday, Florida Gators reliever Michael Byrne got another chance on Sunday. Byrne recorded the final six out of Florida’s 5-4 win on Sunday, avoiding what would have been a devastating sweep at home to Tennessee.
Florida jumped out to a quick lead in the second inning when Nelson Maldonado walked and moved to second when Christian Hicks hit a one-out single to right. Nick Horvath drew his first of two walks on the afternoon to load the bases and Deacon Liput beat out what would have been an inning-ending 5-3 double play to allow Maldonado to score.
The Gators manufactured anther run in the second inning. JJ Schwarz, who sat out the first two games of the series, led off with a single before Mike Rivera popped out. Kevin O’Sullivan, looking to make something happen, put on a hit-and-run with Christian Hicks. The left-handed hitter turned on a pitch, slapping it just under the glove of Andre Lipcius and Schwarz hustled to third. The hustle paid off when Schwarz was able to score on a wild pitch one batter later.
The wheels fell off for Tennessee in the fourth.
Christian Hicks lined a ball off of pitcher Will Neely’s leg for a single. Nick Horvath took a curveball to the top of the helmet and Deacon Liput singled up the middle to load the bases. Neely walked Dalton Guthrie to extend Florida’s lead to 3-0 before Eric Freeman replaced him on the mound. Freeman’s luck wasn’t any better. Schwarz stayed back on a slide and lofted it high to right field, scoring Horvath. Rivera smoked a ball through the right side, on another hit-and-run, to score Liput and give Florida a 5-0 advantage.
Jackson Kowar gave two-out single in the first frame before retiring the next nine batters he faced. Lipcius reached on a throwing error and Pete Derkay singled before Kowar got out of the fourth.
He got in trouble in the sixth inning, giving up three consecutive hits to load the bases. Garrett Milchin replaced him but hit Derkay to plate a run. Milchin surrendered two more runs to cut the lead to 5-3.
Kirby McMullen replaced Milchin in the seventh and worked a scoreless frame but McMullen hit Lipcius to start the eighth. Andrew Baker relieved McMullen but gave up a run on back-to-back singles and moved both runners into scoring position on a wild pitch before O’Sullivan went to Byrne or the third straight game.
The right-hander wasn’t handed an ideal situation on Sunday, entering the game in the eighth inning with two runners in scoring position but he knuckled down.
Will Heflin pinch-hit and lofted a ball seemingly into no man’s land. Dalton Guthrie, Deacon Liput and Horvath all ran towards the ball but it looked like the game would soon be tied.
Dalton Guthrie thought it would be too, before he looked up and over his shoulder, found the ball and threw his glove out.
“I don’t know, I’m still wondering,” Guthrie responded when asked how he got to the ball. “I just turned around and looked back up, it was there, I was like, ‘thank goodness. All luck.”
The play probably saved the game. Byrne got a strikeout and a groundout to get out of the eighth and three fly outs in the ninth to avoid the sweep.