This wasn’t the homecoming that A.J. Puk had in mind.
The sophomore left-hander took the mound for the Florida Gators (24-8, 6-5 SEC) not too far from his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa but took a loss to the Missouri Tigers (21-11, 7-4 SEC).
Puk’s day started off well. He struck out the first batter he faced before surrendering a walk. A double play got him out of the inning unscathed but it wouldn’t be the last jam Puk would find himself in on the afternoon.
In the second inning Puk gave up a solo home run, single and a two-run home run consecutively before striking out the next two batters to finish the side. The third saw a similar fate. Missouri started the inning with a single and a walk and quickly had runners on second and third after a sacrifice bunt. A double, single and RBI groundout later the Tigers had doubled their lead from three to six.
Missouri starter Tanner Houck, on the other hand, was in cruise control the entire day. The right-hander retired the first 10 batters he faced before Richie Martin doubled in the fourth inning. That turned out to be a minor speed bump as Houck retired the side in the inning without any further damage. Houck made it through seven innings facing just one over the minimum before surrendering a run in the eighth inning.
Buddy Reed led off the inning with a single and was brought home by a Josh Tobias double. Again, unfazed, Houck worked out of the inning without giving up anything else.
“We knew what we were getting into today with him (Tanner Houck). We watched a bunch of video on him and he was as good as advertised,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Our guys kept coming back to the dugout saying that’s the best stuff they’ve seen all year.
“It was a really good start, it was about as good a start as you’re going to see from anybody in our league, let alone he’s just a freshman. Credit him, tip your cap, it was just one of those days where he was really good – there’s nothing you can say.”
Florida and Missouri will play for the series on Sunday at 2 p.m. with Dane Dunning (4-0, 2.38) squaring off against Peter Fairbanks (2-3, 2.39 ERA).