Don’t call it a comeback. After losing on Friday the No. 1 Florida Gators (17-3, 2-1 SEC) came back to win the next two games over Tennessee (8-8, 1-2 SEC), taking the series win with a 9-4 victory on Sunday afternoon.
Despite playing with a very young lineup, the Gators showed that have a lot of fight in them, not allowing Friday’s loss to fester and ruin their weekend.
“I think our team is mentally tough,” said catcher Mike Rivera. “I say it comes from our coaches. They’re tough and everything they do is 100-percent.”
The Gators jumped on Tennessee early scoring a run in the first inning off of the bat of Harrison Bader. The junior outfielder sent a 0-0 fastball over the left field wall for a solo shot, his team-leading seventh home run of the season.
“You always gotta sit on a fastball,” Bader said. “We kind of had a quick inning so I had an idea he was going to kind of attack the zone, throw it in the zone to get out of the inning quickly. I just jumped on it and got a good pitch to hit.”
The Vols responded with a solo home run of their own in the top of the second but quickly gave it back in the bottom half when JJ Schwarz scored on a passed ball. The Gators kept the pressure on in the third.
Dalton Guthrie drew a leadoff walk and advanced 90 feet on a Richie Martin single. Tennessee wanted no part of Harrison Bader, walking him on five pitches to load the bases. Tobias struck out swinging, setting the stage for Buddy Reed. The sophomore came up to the plate, worked the count to 2-2 before crushing a fastball into right center for a bases-clearing triple to give Florida a comfortable lead.
“It’s a game of momentum,” said O’Sullivan. “I’m sure any pitching coach in the country would say that you gotta go out there and put a zero on the board. When you get momentum you gotta keep it, especially with players at this age; they play on emotion so much. When you get that momentum you gotta hold on to it.”
Florida did hold on to that momentum, adding a run in the fifth inning and answering a Volunteer run in the sixth with two of their own in the bottom half of the inning.
Florida needed only three pitchers to work through the Volunteers on Sunday, with Danny Young eating up most of the innings, striking out a career-high seven batters.
The Gators will host Florida State at McKethan Stadium at 7 pm on Tuesday.