Continuing the outstanding pitching set forth by Hudson Randall’s complete game shutout Friday night, the Florida Gators pitchers allowed two runs on four hits. Both runs were scored by the Volunteers on a two shot homer by Khayyan Norfolk (2B) to tie the score in the top of the sixth. The Gators (23-5), largely in part to Nolan Fontana (SS) who had six RBIs Saturday, defeated the Tennessee Volunteers (19-8) 11-2 in front of 3,726 at McKethan Stadium.
The two Tennessee runs were the first allowed by Florida in 14.1 innings.
Florida southpaw Brian Johnson (4-1), who pulled double-duty later in the game at DH, allowed all four hits, both runs (earned), walked one, and struck out five in 5.1 innings, while Anthony DeSclafani (4-0) struck out two in 2.2 innings, and Keenan Kish closed the game with one strike out. Both righties didn’t allow a hit, run, or walk in their combined three innings. DeSclafani picked up the win, throwing 14 strikes on 18 pitches.
Tennessee started a lefty of their own in Steven Gruver (L, 3-3) who allowed four runs (3ER) on nine hits, walked four and struck out four batters in 5.1. innings.
The first three and a half innings were scoreless in Gainesville until the Gators scored the first two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Austin Maddox (1B) led off with a hit that skipped off of Norfolk’s glove and trickled into center field. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Josh Adams (2B/1B) for the first out. Vicklash Ramjit, starting as the DH, had a basehit to left field, leaving men on the corners, for his second hit in back-to-back games. The next batter Zack Powers (3B), bunted toward the mound, but Norfolk ran up on it and quickly tossed the ball to Matt Ramsey (C) at the plate to tag Maddox and save a run. Fontana would get his first RBI of the game on a hard base hit into right field that scored Ramjit from second. With Daniel Pigott (LF) up, Gruver checked Fontana at first, but overthrew Josh Liles (1B), which scored Powers unearned, and left Fontana at third. Pigott walked, for Gruver’s fourth of the day. Tennessee held a meeting at the mound, and shortly after resuming play, Pigott stole second base standing up. Kamm Washington (CF/RF) struck out swinging for the third out, leaving two men in scoring position.
Johnson retired nine straight Volunteers until Davis Morgan (1B) singled to right field in the top of the sixth, followed by Norfolk’s homerun to tie the game at 2-2. Zach Osbourne (SS) singled to center field and Matt Duffy (3B) walked, prompting Florida head coach, Kevin O’Sullivan, to replace Johnson with RHP Anthony DeSclafani. DeSclafani forced Liles to hit into a second-to-first double play to end the visitor’s half of the inning.
The Good guys opened their half of the sixth with a single through the left side by Adams, followed by Johnson’s sixth double of the year. Morgan made a diving catch, then tagged first to get the first out on Powers. With runners in scoring position, Fontana picked up his second and third RBIs on a base hit though the middle that scored Adams and Johnson for a 4-2 Florida lead. RHP Drew Steckenrider replaced Gruver on the mound for Tennesse and struck out Pigott as Fontana was stealing second. Pigott’s swing carried him in front of Ramsey’s throw, and was called for interference, resulting in Fontana being the third out of the inning.
DeSclafani set down all three Volunteer batters in the seventh with a Ramsey fly out to Preston Tucker at center field, followed by back-to-back strikeouts of Charley Thurber (RF) and Tyler Horne (DH).
The Gators picked up seven more runs in the seventh, started by Washington’s single to short stop. Catcher Mike Zunino, who had his 16th consecutive game with a hit (single in the fifth), bunted down the third baseline. Duffy’s throw to second base was off the bag, and the subsequent throw to first was not in time, leaving two men on, and no outs. Steckenrider walked Tucker to load the bases with Maddox on deck. Maddox grounded into a double play that got Tucker out at second, but moved Zunino to third and scored Washington. Steckenrider walked Adams and Johnson to load the bases, then walked Powers which scored Zunino for a 6-2 lead. After a pitching change to LHP Hunter Daniel, and with the bases still loaded, Fontana hit a base-clearing triple to the right field corner for his fourth, fifth, and sixth RBIs of the game, tying his career high set on March 23 against Winthrop. With Fontana at third, Pigott hit his second homerun of the season, for a nine run Florida lead, 11-2. Washington ended the Gators’ run on a swinging strike out.
DeSclafani set down the side in the eighth, retiring seven Volunteers in a row.
RHP Zack Godley returned the favor by retiring all three Florida hitters (Zunino, Tucker, Moyer) in the bottom of the eighth.
Righty Keenan Kish closed out the game for the Gators with 12 pitches to three batters, Osbourne, Duffy, and Liles – retiring all three.
The Gators clinched the series, with one game remaining at McKethan. Sunday’s finale takes place at 1:00 pm ET with Karsten Whitson (3-0) on the mound for the Gators, and the Volunteers’ starter yet to be announced.