The Florida Gators baseball team (21-5) lost games one and three in the weekend series last week against South Carolina, dropping their ranking from No. 1 to No. 3.
Tuesday, they had a chance to bring a little happiness to GatorNation, playing the in-state rivals, Florida State (19-6). Unfortunately, the Seminoles defeated the Gators 5-2 in front of a crowd of 10,078 at The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
The meeting marked the third of four for the two teams this season, and the fifth annually in Jacksonville. In the three games played this season, Florida State has the edge two games to one, winning both neutral site games. On March 1rst in Tampa, FSU won 5-3 while the Gators won the March 15th contest 5-4 (10 innings) in Gainesville. The final meeting will take place in Tallahassee on Tuesday, April 12th.
Righty Anthony DeSclafani (3-0) started for the Gators, breezing through the first two innings and eight Seminole batters before hitting short stop Justin Gonzalez with two outs in the bottom of the third. Gonzalez would be hit a second time by LHP Stephen Rodriguez his next trip to the plate in the bottom of the fifth.
The Seminoles started the game with RHP Hunter Scantling on the mound, who retired the first two Gator batters, short stop Nolan Fontana (ground out to 2b) and center fielder Kamm Washington (strike out) before left fielder Daniel Pigott singled into left. Catcher Mike Zunino extended his hitting streak to 14 games on a double down the left field line, scoring Pigott and giving Florida a quick 1-0 lead. Right fielder Preston Tucker ended the Gator at-bat with a strike out.
The score was increased to 2-0 Florida in the top of the third inning. Scantling would get his third strike out of his outting on third baseman Zack Powers, then walk Fontana for the 21rst time this season. Washington reached first after a error on first baseman Jayce Boyd fielding a bunt, and the bases were loaded after Pigott was hit by a pitch. Zunino got his second RBI on the evening on a Sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Fontana who tagged up at third. Tucker grounded out to second, leaving two men on.
In the bottom of the fourth, Seminole third baseman Sherman Johnson hit a single that trickled into the outfield past second base. CF/P Mike McGee hit a hard shot down the right field line that hopped over the wall for a ground rule double, holding the speedy Johnson at third. Rodriguez would replace DeSclafani on the mound, and the next batter right fielder James Ramsey doubled of the wall in right center field, scoring both Johnson and McGee to even the score at 2-2. Rodriguez set down the next two batters, Boyd (Fly out) and catcher Rafael Lopez (K). Left fielder Stuart Tapley hit the ball to Fontana, who fell down on the play, allowing Tapley to reach first, and advancing Ramsey to third. Fontana would make up for the error on the next play, when DH Parker Brunelle hit a 2 out/2 strike grounder right to him which he tagged 2b for the last out on Tapley.
The Seminoles struck again in their half of the sixth after a lead off double by Ramsey who advanced to third on a passed ball. Boyd reached on a fielder’s error by Josh Adams at second base, scoring Ramsey unearned. Rodriguez would get his final out of the game when Lopez struck out swinging. He was replaced by righty Greg Larson who set down the next two batters Tapley, who popped up to short stop, and Brunelle, who flied out to left field to end the inning.
Florida State’s solid pitching held Florida scoreless after the third inning, while the Seminoles scored all of their runs with a Gator lefty on the mound. The last runs coming in the bottom of the eighth with Nick Maronde on the hill. Ramsey struck out swinging and Boyd grounded out to short stop before Lopez bunted to 2b, and reached first after Adams failed to make the play. Tapley homered to right field to extend the Seminoles’ lead 5-2. Brunelle singled into right field, after the ball bounced off of Austin Maddox’s glove at first. Kevin O’Sullivan pulled Maronde for the righty Tommy Toledo who forced Gonzalez to ground the ball to Fontana who tossed it over to Adams at second for the third out on Brunelle.
Florida State head coach Mike Martin, in his 32nd year, moved CF/P McGee to the mound to close the game for the Seminoles. After Brian Johnson, designated hitter, was walked to lead off the ninth, McGee made quick work of the Gators, striking out Jeff Moyer (PH for Adams) and Cody Dent (playing 3b since the seventh) before ending the game, forcing Fontana to ground out to second.
The Gators host their SEC Eastern Division rival, Univeristy of Tennessee (18-6), for a weekend series beginning Friday at 7:00 ET at McKethan Stadium.