Gators and ‘Dores Split Series as the Battle for First Place Continues

No. 5 Florida (38-13/19-7 SEC) traveled to Nashville to take on No 2 Vanderbilt (42-7/20-6 SEC) for a three game series beginning on Friday night at Hawkins Field. Play was suspended due to weather in the middle of the sixth inning with the Commodores leading the Gators 4-2. The Gators came back after the extended break with a come-from-behind victory to defeat the Commodores 6-5 Saturday.

RHP Sonny Grey (9-3, 1.94 ERA) got the start for the Commodores, while RHP Hudson Randall (8-2, 2.05 ERA) got the nod for the Gators. Gray pitched six innings, allowing two runs (one earned), walked two, and struck out four. Randall allowed two runs (earned) on eight hits and walked two. Neither pitcher ended on record, as RHP Anthony DeSclafani (4-2, 3.82 ERA) got the win, Austin Maddox (2-0, .095 ERA) his second save, and Navery Moore (4-1, .36 ERA) with the loss.

Less than an hour after the opener concluded, the Gators and Commodores took the field for game two.

Both teams started lefties LHP Grayson Garvin (11-1) for Vanderbilt, and Brian Johnson (7-3) who was named to the John Olerud Award Watch List for best two-way player for Florida. Johnson lasted 4.1 innings, giving up eight runs (earned) on nine hits, striking out three, and walking one, recording the loss. Garvin got his eleventh win in the campaign allowing one earned run on six hits, striking out two and walking one in 7IP.

The Gators started the game with a lead off strikeout by Bryson Smith, followed by a basehit to second base by Nolan Fontana (SS). Mike Zunino (C) struck out swinging, as Fontana stole second. Preston Tucker (RF) walked on the tenth pitch he faced, but Adams struck out for the third out of visitors half. Johnson set down the first three Vanderbilt batters in order to end the first inning.

Johnson led off the second with a double into the right center field gap that bounced on the warning track, followed by Austin Maddox (3b) who took first on a free pass. With two men on, and no outs, Daniel Pigott (LF) reached on a fielders choice bunt, that forced Johnson out at third. Vickash Ramjit (1b) hit into a 2-5-3 double play to end the stanza. Johnson retired the Commodore batters in order for the second straight inning, leaving the game scoreless through two innings.

Smith opened the third with a home run over the right field wall for a 1-0 Florida lead, followed by a Fontana fly out to center field. Zunino who was hitless in the first game gainst Vanderbilt, flied out out to Bryan Johns (2b) in shallow right field. Tucker ended the Gators half with a fly out to left field. Conrad Gregor (DH) got the first Vanderbilt hit of the game with a lead off double to right center field to open the bottom of the third. Connor Harrell (CF) hit the ball to Johnson who made a high throw to Ramjit at first, but he managed to tag the runner on the helmet before he stepped on the bag. Johns gave Vanderbilt their second double of the inning, as well as scoring the tying run as Gregor crossed the plate to even the score at 1-1. Tony Kemp (LF) grounded out to Fontana at short stop, who made the throw to Ramjit, advancing Johns to third. Vanderbilt took the lead after a Anthony Gomez (SS) single to center field, scoring Johns; Gomez stole his sixth base of the year as Zunino couldn’t make the throw to second in time. Aaron Westlake (1b) struck out to end the inning with the Commodores leading 2-1.

In the top of the fourth, Garvin had back-to-back strikeouts with Adams and Johnson, but Maddox singled up the middle to have one on and two outs. Pigott, on a 10 game hitting streak, landed at first after being hit in the back by a pitch. However, Ramjit couldn’t capitalilze and flied out to center field for the third out. Jason Esposito (3b) singled to center field to begin the hosts’ half of the inning, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Yastrzemski (RF). Curt Casali (C) fouled out to Ramjit, and Gregor flied out to center field to round out the inning.

Garvin set down all three Gator batters with flyouts the top of the fifth. Harrell doubled off the left field wall to lead off for Vanderbilt. Johns safely bunted down to 3rd base, advancing Harrell to third. A sacrifice bunt by Kemp moved Johns to second, but Harrell held at third. Johnson intentially walked Gomez to load the bases, and Westlake hit a grand slam to extend the Vanderbilt lead to 6-1. After Esposito doubled down the left field line and Yastrzemski hit a basehit off of Johnson’s glove, Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan replaced Johnson with RHP Matt Campbell. Casali fouled back to Zunino for the second Commodore out. Gregor doubled into left center field, scoring both Esposito and Yastrzemski followed by Harrell who singled through the left side, advancing Gregor to third. Johns fouled the ball off his hand could not continue his at bat, and was replaced by Riley Reynolds (2b). Reynolds struck out to to the end the fifth with the Commodores scoring six runs on seven hits, and two men left on base.

Garvin continued his domination on the mound in the sixth, setting down the Florida batters in order for the second consecutive inning. With one out, Gomez tripled down the right field line, sending O’Sullivan back to the mound for another pitching change. LHP Daniel Gibson struck out Westlake, but a passed ball scored Gomez for a 9-1 Commodore lead. Esposito hit the fifth Vanderbilt double of the contest, with a shot off the right center field wall. Yastrzemski gave Vanderbilt their tenth run as he scored Esposito on a single to center field. Casali flied out to left field, to end the sixth 10-1 Commodores.

Maddox singled a line drive into left field to lead off the seventh. With Cody Dent (3b) in to pinch run for Maddox, Pigott flied out to left field. Ramjit singled up the middle, but Smith grounded into a 4-3 double play to end the Gator’s portion of the inning trailing by nine runs. Ben McMahon replaced Zunino behind the plate, and Gibson issued a walk to Gregor to open the bottom of the inning. Harrell doubled for the second time in the contest, this one off the 400 ft. mark on the the center field wall. After back-to-back RBI singles by Reynolds and Kemp, RHP Keenan Kish replaced Gibson on the mound. Lugo pinch ran for Kemp, and was forced out at second on a Gomez groundout. Westlake singled through the right side, scoring Reynolds for a 13-1 Commodore lead. Gomez advanced to third on an Esposito sacrfice fly to center field, and scored on a wild pitch by Kish. Yastrzemski ended the inning on a groundout with a 14-1 Vanderbilt lead.

Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin replaced Garvin with another lefty in Zevin Ziomak at the outset of the eighth inning. Fontana was issued a walk, but McMahon grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, and Tucker struck out for . RHP Justin Poovey entered the game for Florida in the bottom of the inning, setting down the Vanderbilt side in order.

Scoreless since the Smith home run in the third, Adams was the eighth Gator to strike out, followed by a grounded out to second by Johnson. Dent was hit by a pitch, but Pigott flied out to right field to end the game, 14-1 Vanderbilt.

The series finale will take place Sunday at 2 ET.

 

Dory LeBlanc is a contributing author at GatorsFirst.com and BourbonMeyer.com.  For more thoughts on the Florida Gators (and more) follow Dory LeBlanc on Twitter (@Dory_LeBlanc).

 

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