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UF Baseball: Comeback Bid Falls Short as No. 5 Florida Falls to Jacksonville, 10-9

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SKIP POWERS

Gators look to bounce back on Saturday

The No. 5-ranked Florida baseball team dropped the series opener against Jacksonville, 10-9, Friday evening at Florida Ballpark/McKethan Field.

The Dolphins collected 10 runs on 12 hits to earn the victory. Facing a 10-5 deficit entering the bottom of the ninth, the Gators clawed back and had the go-ahead run at the plate but saw the four-run ninth inning rally come to an end.

The two teams raced through three innings until the Gators broke the silence in the fourth. Sterlin Thompson continued his stellar freshman campaign when he tripled to left to score fourth-year junior Jordan Butler. Third-year sophomore Kris Armstrong then gave Florida a 2-0 lead with a sac-fly to right.

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Jacksonville then bounced back in the next half inning to even the score, but the Gators used a two-out home run off the bat of Armstrong to take a 4-2 lead in the sixth.

The Dolphins then retook the lead with three runs in the seventh and added another in the eighth before third baseman Kirby McMullen ripped his second home run on the season, clearing the bullpen in left field to cut the Jacksonville lead to 6-5.

Jacksonville added four more in the ninth to extend the lead to 10-5 before second-year freshman Josh Rivera belted his first home run of the season to pull the Gators within three on the two-run shot. Florida continued to battle back and pulled within one when third-year sophomore Jud Fabian cleared the berm in left with his team-leading sixth home run of the season.

Third-year junior Tommy Mace struck out seven and allowed two runs on three hits in five innings. Jordan Butler and Rivera both collected two hits on the evening.

FROM COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN

On his thoughts on the game:

“Quite a few. First of all, congratulate (Tyler) Santana. He was really good for Jacksonville – pitched really well. We’ve seen him before and he’s older and moved the ball back-and-forth to both sides of the plate, threw his breaking ball for strikes and kind of kept us off balance. I think he kept us hitless through the first three (innings). The story of the game is, obviously, we made four errors, which is uncharacteristic of what we normally have. We’ve been playing really sound defense, and we messed up a couple bunt plays in that one inning. We went to the bullpen probably a little too early. They were able to squeeze another four outs from their starter. Relatively the same number of pitches that we had. We were at 100 through five (innings), again. That puts us in a tough spot with our pen and shortens our pen a little bit moving forward. We just have to get a little deeper in the ballgame, we have to play better defense. We were not good tonight in bunt situations. Simple as that.”

NEXT GAME: The Gators look to even the series on Saturday, March 13, when the two teams return to Florida Ballpark at 6:30 p.m.