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UF Baseball: Ninth-Ranked Gators Fall in Series Finale to Georgia

Photo by Courtney Culbreath

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SULLIVAN BORTNER

No. 9 Florida fell in the series finale against Georgia on Sunday by a final score of 6-1. Despite the loss, the Gators still came away with the series victory after winning each of the first two matchups in the three-game set.

Prior to the start of Sunday’s game, Florida honored eight players as part of the team’s senior day celebration: infielder Nick Blasucci, left-handed pitcher/first baseman Jordan Butler, outfielder Brock Edge, catcher Cal Greenfield, right-handed pitcher Jack Leftwich, right-handed pitcher Tommy Mace, infielder Kirby McMullen and left-handed pitcher Trey Van Der Weide.

Game three started with a similar tune as Saturday’s contest, with Georgia striking first for three runs in the opening frame on a Garrett Blaylock home run to right-center field. The Bulldogs extended their advantage to 4-0 in the second, as Chaney Rogers hit a solo home run to left field.

Florida put a chip in the Bulldog lead in the bottom half of the second, with Sterlin Thompson delivering a two-out RBI single on a ground ball back up the middle to make it a 4-1 game. That would prove to be the only scoring for the Gators in the game, as Georgia pitchers tossed seven consecutive scoreless innings to finish out the series.

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Game three remained frozen in a three-run game up until the top of the seventh when Georgia plated two unearned runs off a fielder’s choice on a bunt and subsequent RBI single to right field by Cole Tate. That brought the score to 6-1, which would ultimately prove to be the final as neither team was able to push across any runs in the eighth or ninth.

Two Gators collected multi-hit games in the finale, as Kendrick Calilao (2-for-4) accounted for Florida’s only run while Thompson (2-for-4) drove in the lone run. For Calilao, the performance marked his third multi-hit showing in the series. Collecting two hits apiece in each game to finish 6-for-10 on the weekend, Calilao led the Gators with a .600 batting average and six hits versus Georgia.

Gator starter Franco Aleman received the loss, pitching six innings and allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits while recording three strikeouts.

Leftwich turned in a strong outing for Florida out of the bullpen, providing 2.2 shutout innings on two hits and one walk with three strikeouts. Having also provided a scoreless appearance in game one, Leftwich finished with 4.2 shutout innings of relief in the series and eight total strikeouts.

Georgia starting pitcher Jonathan Cannon earned the victory, lasting 5.2 innings on the hill and allowing one run on six hits and four walks while striking out four batters.

NOTABLES

  *   Despite the loss, Florida has won 15 of their last 20 games overall and are 17-3 across their previous 20 at home including wins in 11 of their last 13 at Florida Ballpark.
  *   By going 1-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch, McMullen extended his on-base streak to 23 games.
  *   Calilao finished 2-for-4 on Sunday, marking his third game of the series with two hits. Calilao paced Florida with six hits and a .600 batting average (6-for-10) over the weekend, homering in each of games one and two. Calilao has now collected multiple hits in five of the last six games.
  *   Aleman tied his career high with 6.0 innings pitched on Sunday, going six innings for the second straight start.

FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN

On the missed opportunities with runners in scoring position…
“Bottom line, we got beat today. I don’t think we played poorly, we just fell behind early and we couldn’t come up with a big, two-out hit. Cannon threw the ball really well and sometimes you just got to tip your cap to your opponent, and we just got beat. Simple as that.”

On Aleman’s game three start…
“I thought he settled in, obviously, after the second. We probably need to tinker with his pen before this next start. He’s had a history of maybe being a little bit of a slow starter. I don’t know if he’s got to maybe go through and execute some pitches for the first three hitters of a game. The Blaylock at-bat, I think nine of his last 11 at-bats he had swung at the first pitch, and we just left the ball out over the middle of the plate and they took the 3-0 lead. I think after the second, he pitched well.”

On when you start to turn the page and focus on Arkansas…
“Tonight. We’ll focus on Arkansas tonight, and it’s a short week, obviously, we travel on Wednesday and play Thursday, Friday, Saturday. We still got a lot to play for. We’re right in the middle of this thing. It’ll be a great challenge to play Arkansas at their place, but at the end of the day, if we want to get to the final destination and have an opportunity to play for a national championship, we’re going to have to play Arkansas and teams like Arkansas. It’s a great opportunity for us and we’re going to move on from this game tonight and start working on Arkansas tonight.”

UP NEXT
Florida travels to Arkansas for a three-game series against the Razorbacks from Thursday, May 20 to Saturday, May 22. Game one will air on SEC Network at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, while game two airs on SEC Network at 8 p.m. on Friday. The series finale will stream live on SEC Network+ at 3 p.m. on Saturday. Fans can also tune in on radio via WRUF 850 AM/98.1 FM in Gainesville, 1010XL in Jacksonville and on any mobile device via the TuneIn app (search for the “Florida Baseball” station).

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