In the second round of the SEC Tournament Thursday, the No. 2 seed Arkansas Razorbacks (37-19) defeated No. 6 seed Mississippi State Bulldogs (34-23) 7-2. Followed by No. 8 seed Auburn Tigers (29-29) falling to No. 5 seed Georgia Bulldogs (29-29) 3-2. The No. 3 seed Florida Gators (42-15) blanked the No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide (33-24) 6-0. The No. 4 Vanderbilt Commodores (45-9) will play No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks (45-12) in the night game.
Starting the game for the Gators, RHP Randall Hudson (9-3) pitched eight shutout innings allowing four hits, one walk, and striking out two hitters. LHP Adam Morgan (5-6) was on the hill for the Tide, allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits, walking and striking out one in 3.1IP.
The Gators attacked early as Bryson Smith (CF) led off the game with a double to the warning track in center field, and advanced to third on bunt by Nolan Fontana (SS) who reached base on a fielding error by Morgan. Mike Zunino (C), the SEC leader in homeruns and RBIs was walked to load the bases followed up with a Preston Tucker (RF) groundout to first base that scored Smith. Josh Adams (2b) added to the early Florida lead with a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Fontana, but Brian Johnson (DH) was out on a first-pitch fly ball to left field to end the Gator’s first. Randall walked Taylor Dugas (CF) to put the leadoff man on in the bottom of the inning, and then Brock Bennett (C) followed reaching on a fielder’s choice, that also left Dugas safe at second after a throwing error by Randall. Jared Reaves (SS) hit to Cody Dent who tagged third and Austin Maddox was able to hang on at first for the 5-3 double play. Austen Smith grounded out to end the bottom of the inning with the Gators leading 2-0.
Maddox led off with a base hit to center field in the second, followed by a single by Daniel Pigott (LF) that hit an Alabama player, who was looked at by the Tide staff but remained in the game. Dent struck out swinging, and Smith got his second hit of the afternoon with an RBI single into left field, scoring Maddox. With Fontana at the plate, both Pigott and Smith stole a base before Fontana sent Pigott home on a sacrifice fly to center field. Zunino ended the stanza with a fly out to deep left field. Brett Whitaker (1b) led off with a base hit up the middle, but Randall set down the next three Tide batters: Brett Booth lined out, Andrew Miller (RF) fouled out, and Hunter Gregory (LF) grounded out to end the second inning 4-0 Florida.
Morgan started to settle in the third as Tucker grounded out to first to start off the inning followed by a base hit into center field by Adams. Johnson grounded out to second but Maddox lined out to short stop for a scoreless Florida third. Randall returned the favor as he retired the side as Josh Sanders flied out to right field, Dugas grounded out to second, and Bennett flied out to left field.
For the third time in four innings, the Gators had a leadoff man aboard after Pigott singled through the left side, and advanced to second on a stolen base. Dent’s sacrifice bunt moved Pigott to third, and Smith sent him home with a base hit into left field. After the Gator’s fifth run of the contest, LHP Taylor Wolfe replaced Morgan on the mound, and Fontana reached on a fielder’s choice that sent Smith out at second. Zunino flied out to deep center field for the third out of the inning. For the second consecutive inning, Randall retired the side as Reaves led off the bottom of the inning with a fly out to center field, Smith popped up to second, and Whitaker grounded out to first base with the Gators up 5-0.
For the first time in the contest, Florida went down in order as Tucker grounded out to short stop, Adams grounded out and Johnson fouled out to Bennett. Smith ran down a line drive into center field by Booth, Miller grounded to the mound, and Gregory flied out to left field to end the frame scoreless for both teams.
As the rain started to come down in the top of the sixth, Maddox led off with a fly out to right field, Pigott doubled to the left field wall but was thrown out attempting to advance to third, and Dent flied out to left field as Wolfe retired the Florida bats in order. Randall put the first two Alabama batters on with back-to-back singles by Sanders and Dugas. Bennett reached on a fielder’s choice that put Dugas out at second, but the double play couldn’t be turned as runner’s remained on the corners with one out. The Tide couldn’t capitalize as Reaves hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Smith was out for the first time in the contest with a strikeout to open the seventh followed by a double into right center field by Fontana, his 12th of the campaign. Zunino grounded out to short stop, advancing Fontana to third before the inning ended with a fly out to center field by Tucker. Smith flied out to center field, followed by a single to first base by Whitaker. However, Booth hit into a 6-4-3 double play, the third of the game turned for the Gators.
Adams fouled to Miller, who tripped over the bull pen mounds, but was able to hang on for the first out of the eighth inning. Johnson struck out swinging and Maddox grounded out to third as Wolfe’s pitching continued to be solid late in the game. Miller led off the bottom of the inning with a ground out to second base, followed by back-to-back strike outs to Jon Kelton (PH) and Sanders kept Randall’s shutout intact through eight.
Pigott led off the ninth inning with a triple to center field and was held as Dent flied out to left field. Smith doubled into the right field, scoring Pigott to extend Florida’s lead. Fontana flied out to center field and with two outs and Smith at third, Zunino struck out to end the frame. Steven Rodriguez was in to pitch the remainder of the ball game after an outstanding eight inning shutout by Randall. Dugas led off with a base hit into left field and Bennett flied out to right field, before Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan replaced the lefty with RHP Anthony DeSclafani. Reaves reached on a fielder’s choice that put Dugas out at second base. Down to their final out of the game, Smith struck out looking to end the game 6-0 Florida.
The Gators will have a day off and will play Saturday at 10:30am, opponent yet to be determined.