Saturday’s game was a microcosm of the Florida Gators’ 2019 season. The Gators had 12 hits and scored seven runs but it wasn’t enough to win.
Sophomore Jack Leftwich got the start Saturday and needed to go deep into the game to help the bullpen after Tommy Mace lasted just 3.1 innings on Friday night. Leftwich gave up a two out home run in the top of the first inning but Brady McConnell tied the game with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first.
Leftwich did well to keep the Volunteers from crossing the plate in the middle innings but ran his pitch count up in the process. The bats helped him out in the fourth inning. Nelson Maldonado was hit by a pitch and Brady Smith earned a walk. After a fly out Kendrick Calilao doubled home the pair to give the Gators a 3-1 advantage.
Then the rebound runs.
Leftwich gave up a leadoff single and allowed the runner to advance into scoring position after a wild pitch. Justin Ammons’ single plated the run and Leftwich’s day was done after 4.1 innings. Ben Specht replaced him but wouldn’t be long for the day. Specht gave up a single, threw a wild pitch, a RBI single and then Alerick Soularie cleared the bases with a home run.
Just minutes after taking the lead the pitching staff had given it back and then some.
“I think our offense is extremely impressive. I mean it’s hard to go out there, score a couple runs and then we give up runs right after that. Rebound runs are terrible for us this year,” McConnell said. “It really is a shame to watch. Our offense is really impressive. Just coming back, even when we’re down shows what we are.”
McConnell isn’t alone in the frustration.
“It’s a broken record the entire year. It’s frustrating. It’s not like they don’t know. The bottom line is when we get momentum and score some runs it’s the pitcher’s responsibility to go out there and put up a zero. It’s just that simple.”
Tennessee tacked on runs off or Jordan Butler, who replaced Specht after the home run, in the sixth and seventh innings. The offense continued to battle. Wil Dalton hit a two run home run in the bottom of the sixth and McConnell hit his 14th home run — second of the day — to right center field in the seventh. McConnell’s 14 home runs ties Mark Ellis for most hit by a Gator shortstop in a season.
After McConnell’s home run the Gators had a chance to tie the game. Austin Langworthy singled then Nelson Maldonado singled to center field and advance to second when the throw came in to try and get Langworthy, who slid safely into third. Brady Smith cracked a double into right center that should have scored two easily but Maldonado tripped rounding third. He was able to get back to the bag safely but the score remains 8-7, where it would end.
The Gators and Volunteers will play a crucial rubber match on Sunday. Tennessee sits at 11-15 in the SEC and Florida is 10-16. Freshman Nick Pogue, who threw well Tuesday night will get the start for the Gators .