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UF Baseball: No. 14 Florida Falls in Series Opener to No. 2 Vanderbilt

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SULLIVAN BORTNER

No. 14 Florida baseball came up short against No. 2 Vanderbilt in Friday’s series opener by a final score of 11-7. Despite falling in game one, the Gators (28-13, 11-8) matched the Commodores (32-7, 14-5) in both hits (13) and total bases (21).

Vanderbilt plated six runs across the first two innings of play and did not surrender the early lead for the duration of the game. From the top of the fourth through the top of the seventh, both teams scored at least one run in every half inning.

The Commodores pushed across two runs in the first on a CJ Rodriguez two-run single and then followed with a four-run second inning. In the top of the fourth, Dominic Keegan extended the Vanderbilt lead to 8-0 with a two-run double to right center.

Florida answered in the bottom half of the fourth, as Kris Armstrong unloaded on a 1-0 offering from starter Kumar Rocker for a solo home run to deep right field. The long ball marked Armstrong’s fifth home run of the season.

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In the fifth, the Gators and Commodores both worked their way into the scoring column. Vanderbilt scored two on an Isaiah Thomas home run to center, but Florida responded in the bottom half as Jacob Young led off with a single and later came around to score on an RBI groundout by Nathan Hickey to make it a 9-2 ballgame.

After Vanderbilt plated one run in the top of the sixth, Florida added two runs of their own in the bottom half. With one out and two men on, Kirby McMullen delivered a pinch-hit, two-run double to right center.

With the score at 11-4 after Vanderbilt tacked on one run in the seventh, the Gator offense broke through for a three-run eighth inning. Young got the scoring started with a solo shot to left, his third home run of the campaign. Armstrong later followed with an RBI double to left center, while Colby Halter brought Florida within four with an RBI infield single to third base.

David Luethje produced a scoreless ninth to keep the Gators within striking distance, but Florida was unable to mount one final rally as the game ended with a final score of 11-7.

Rocker earned the win, pitching five innings and allowing two earned runs on four hits and four walks while striking out eight. Florida starting pitcher Franco Aleman was saddled with the loss, finishing with five innings pitched and surrendering nine earned runs on 10 hits and two walks, striking out four.

NOTABLES

  *   Florida registered 13 hits, marking the eighth time in the last nine games in which the Gators have collected double-digit knocks.
  *   Hickey went 3-for-5 at the plate to raise his team-leading batting average to .364. The performance marked Hickey’s 10th multi-hit showing and seventh game with three or more hits this season.
  *   Armstrong and McMullen paced the Gators with two RBI apiece in the game, with the former hitting his fifth home run of the season to open the scoring for Florida in the fourth.

FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN
On the starting pitching…
“I thought we had a pretty good week of practice, pretty clear on what we needed to do to be successful. We need our starters to go a little deeper in the game. The goal was to go six innings, and then obviously we have enough pitching in the bullpen to get the last nine outs of the game, depending on the score. We didn’t get off to a great start. We were pretty specific on keeping (Enrique) Bradfield off the base paths, and he got on four times tonight. We needed to attack the zone and keep our pitch count down, and we were at 30 pitches after one, 65 pitches after three and 80 pitches after four, so we did not execute what we said we needed to do.”

On playing from behind…
“It felt like once we fell behind two-nothing, we just never really got a hold of the game again… It’s Florida-Vandy. I didn’t think the emotion was right on the mound, and it wasn’t just Franco (Aleman). The bullpen wasn’t very sharp, either. But I expect us to come out tomorrow and pitch better.”

UP NEXT
Florida and Vanderbilt meet again on Saturday for game two at 6:30 p.m. ET. The game will stream live on SEC Network+ and will be available 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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