The Florida Gators were back on the diamond less than 12 hours after a heartbreaking 14-inning loss to LSU and playing for their SEC Tournament lives against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
“Once I got home I took a shower and passed out,” Mike Rivera said after catching 14 innings on Wednesday. “[My knees] are sore, my whole body is sore.”
Logan Shore was scratched from the starting lineup with a stomach illness, thrusting freshman Brady Singer into a spot-start, the first start of his career. Kevin O’Sullivan started five freshmen, including outfielder Danny Reyes, whose RBI double in the eighth inning gave the Gators a 5-4 lead and kept Florida alive in the tournament.
The Tide handed Florida a run in the first inning. Starter Jake Walters, who has been Alabama’s steadiest pitcher this season, sandwiched an out in-between walks of Buddy Reed and JJ Schwarz. Both runners moved up 90-feet on a wild pitch and Reed scored when Jonathan India grounded out. Florida pushed a run across despite not producing a hit in the first inning and Singer worked a perfect first.
Singer allowed one-out and two-out singles in the bottom of the second, then two runs on back-to-back doubles before getting out of the inning, trailing 3-1. It was a shaky inning for the freshman and Florida quickly got left-hander Scott Moss up in the bullpen.
The Gators’ bats picked up their freshman in the next frame. Reed and Dalton Guthrie walked to start the inning and Schwarz drove Reed in with a single through the left side. Jonathan India followed suit with a single of his own to plate Guthrie and Schwarz tagged home two batters later on a Deacon Liput fielder’s choice.
With a 4-3 lead Singer settled in. The freshman faced the minimum in the third and then retired the next eight batters he faced all via ground balls. Singer, who took a no-decision, pitched a career high six innings, allowed four runs and two walks.
Singer got into trouble in the seventh, walking Cody Henry and hitting Gene Wood to start the frame. Frank Rubio replaced Singer and struck out the first two batters he faced before getting replaced by Kirby Snead. The left-hander threw three pitches before Connor Short ripped a fastball through the right side to plate Henry and tie the game.
Mike Rivera, who was 3-4 with a walk and a run scored, singled to start the eighth inning and moved to second thanks to Liput’s sacrifice bunt. A Ryan Larson strikeout put the pressure on Danny Reyes with two down.
Reyes started the day with two routine groundouts to shortstop, but collected the first extra base hit of his career in the sixth inning. The freshman took an aggressive approach to the at bat jumped on the first pitch he saw, sending it into left-center to score Rivera.
Shaun Anderson entered the game in the ninth inning and worked 1-2-3 frame to earn his 11th save of the season. Florida will play the loser between Mississippi State and LSU at 6:30 pm on Friday night.