Special to GC
With a 6-5 victory over Tennessee in 11 innings, Florida clinched at least a share of the program’s 13th SEC Championship and secured the team’s 22nd Eastern Division title on Thursday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
No. 13 Florida (36-18/20-8 SEC) tied the game on a two-out double by sophomore Harrison Bader in the ninth inning and Bader scored the go-ahead run with two down in the 11th frame after stealing second and advancing around the bases on a pair of errors by Tennessee (30-21/11-17 SEC). The Gators need one more win or a loss by Ole Miss at Texas A&M this weekend to claim the league crown outright.
With the Vols holding a 5-4 lead in the ninth and two down, the Gators tied the game on an RBI double to right field by Bader (3-for-5) that brought junior Casey Turgeon (2-for-6) home. Turgeon had singled with one out off of sophomore Andrew Lee (4-4) and moved to second on a grounder by sophomore Richie Martin. Bader then delivered his fourth double of the year to plate the tying run.
In the 11th, Bader had a one-out single into left field and Lee had junior Taylor Gushue pop up for the second out. Bader was successful on his third theft of the game and the relay throw went into center field, where it was misplayed, enabling Bader to score what proved to be the winning run. Freshman Kirby Snead recorded the final three outs to collect his first save and preserve the win for junior Ryan Harris (3-1).
Tennessee had grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out RBI double by freshman Nick Senzel that scored sophomore Christin Stewart (2-for-6), who had singled with two down against freshman Logan Shore.
Freshman Peter Alonso (2-for-5) gave the Gators a 3-1 advantage in the second inning with a three-run homer to left field after back-to-back singles by juniors Braden Mattson (1-for-5, two runs) and Zack Powers (2-for-5). It was his fourth big fly of the season.
Mattson drew a two-out walk in the fifth from freshman Hunter Martin and Powers expanded the Gators’ lead to 4-1 with a double off of the wall in right field.
Senior Taylor Smart (2-for-5) tied the game in the sixth with a three-run homer with two down. Sophomores Vincent Jackson and Derek Lance (2-for-5) started the inning with consecutive singles and were sacrificed into scoring position on a bunt by sophomore A.J. Simcox. Sophomore Eric Hanhold replaced Shore (5.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R) and struck out sophomore David Houser (2-for-4) before surrendering the round-tripper by Smart to left field that evened the score.
The Vols seized a 5-4 advantage in the eighth on a two-out RBI single by Maddox that scored junior pinch runner Johnny Youngblood. Houser singled with one down and was replaced by Youngblood before Price singled for runners on the corners. Maddox blooped a base-hit into center field to move the hosts in front.
Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan
On gaining at least a share of the SEC Championship:
“I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish. Anytime you win 20 games in the best league in the country, it says a lot about how hard your kids have worked throughout the season. There’s been no quit in this team throughout the year and they always seem to find a way to get a W. At times, it’s not the prettiest in the world, but, in the end, a win’s a win.”
On the Gators’ pitching performance:
“Logan (Shore) gave us another solid start. (Bobby) Poyner came in and got some really big outs to keep us in the game and you can’t say enough about Kirby Snead – he’s a freshman that has been doing a great job for us and he had to face the top of the order to close things out.”