Sophomore A.J. Puk missed the memo that Thursday night was billed as the star-studded pitching matchup.
That was good news for the No. 10 Florida Gators (37-14, 16-10 SEC) as Puk struck out a career-high 12 batters over seven innings of work, leading the way for a 7-3 win over No. 9 Vanderbilt (36-15, 18-8 SEC) on Friday night.
Puk sandwiched a walk in-between two outs in the bottom of the first before losing his command. Rhett Wiseman advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch before a walk and a single gave Vanderbilt an early 1-0 advantage.
After struggling to get anything going against Carson Fulmer on Thursday, the Gator bats woke up in the second frame. Buddy Reed drew his first of four walks on the night — a season-high for any player on the team — and JJ Schwarz launched a home run deep over the left field wall. The home run was Schwarz’s team-leading 14th of the season.
Vanderbilt and Florida traded runs in the third inning with a Harrison Bader home run and a Will Toffey double that plated Zander Wiel.
After surrendering the second run of the game Puk settled into a groove. The lefty was throwing 94-97 all night long and pounded the zone with his fastball, simply overmatching the Commodore bats.
The Gators added some insurance in the fifth inning to give Puk additional cushion. Josh Tobias extended his hitting streak to eight games with a leadoff single and scored when Pete Alonso doubled to right center. A pair of wild pitches allowed Alonso to score, giving Florida a 5-2 lead.
Puk retired the side in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, striking out six along the way. Puk entered the seventh inning having thrown 108 pitches and threw exclusively fastballs in the seventh, striking out the side to finish his night with 7.0 innings pitched, 5 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks and 12 strikeouts in 126 pitches.
Bobby Poyner entered the game in the eighth inning and gave up a solo home run but was able to get back on track and finish the game off.
Florida and Vanderbilt will play a rubber match on Saturday in the series finale and Florida will send freshman Alex Faedo to the mound.