The No. 12 Florida Gators looked snakebitten on Thursday night in Nashville. The Gators committed three errors, spotting Vanderbilt early runs, Alex Faedo wasn’t sharp and they stranded 13 base runners. Dalton Guthrie, representing the tying run in the eight inning was tagged out at home after a passed ball in the eighth inning took a fortunate bounce for Vanderbilt, allowing Jason delay to get the ball and beat Guthrie back to the plate.
It looked like it wouldn’t be their night until a five-run, five hit ninth inning explosion that pushed Florida (23-11, 7-6 SEC) past Vanderbilt (21-14, 6-7 SEC) to take the opening game of a three-game series.
Jonathan India led the ninth off with a single up the middle and moved to third when Christian Hicks chopped a ball over Julian Infante’s head at first base. Ryan Larson walked up to the plate with a career-high four hits. The senior jumped on the first fastball he saw, poking it through the left side for his fifth hit and tying the game at six. Mark Kolozsvary sacrificed Larson and Hicks over with a bunt and Vanderbilt elected to intentionally walk Deacon Liput to load the bases. Dalton Guthrie lined a ball back up the middle to give Florida its first lead of the night and freshman Austin Langworthy, who was 0-13 on the season against left-handed pitchers, collected his first hit against a lefty, doubling into left field and clearing the bases.
Alex Faedo got the start for the Gators but wasn’t sharp early. The junior worked around a leadoff double in the first inning but struggled in the second. Back-to-back singles greeted Florida’s ace and Christian Hicks’ throwing error on an attempted sacrifice bunt gave Vanderbilt a 1-0 lead. A sacrifice squeeze and a single would extend the lead to 3-0.
The Gators came back swinging in the third. Larson singled with one out, Kolozsvary walked and Liput singled to load the bases. Dalton Guthrie hit a sacrifice fly to right field and Langworthy singled home Kolozsvary but the inning ended with JJ Schwarz striking out, one of his five strikeouts on Thursday.
Vanderbilt started he fourth inning off with a single and quickly has runners on second and third after an uncharacteristic fielding error by Dalton Guthrie. Back-to-back groundouts plated two more for the Dores, extending their lead to 5-2.
The story of the night, other than the ninth inning outburst and Larson’s career day, might be how the Gators continued to fight back. Florida scored runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, with Vanderbilt matching a run in the fifth, to trim the lead heading into the eighth inning. Even after the unlucky hop in the eighth inning, the Gators were able to shake it off and continue to fight.
Florida’s 17 hits were a season-high but they have stranded 58 runners in their last five games, a troubling trend.
Brady Singer will face off against Kyle Wright tomorrow night, a matchup of future first rounders. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network + with a 7:30 schedule first pitch.