Florida’s offense put up four multi-run innings in the first five frames, and, once again, the Volunteer bats couldn’t keep up with the UF pitchers as the Gators won game two 9-3 to win the series.
Tennessee starter Chase Burns gave up six hits, three of them home runs, and allowed a season-high seven earned runs in just 3.1 innings. Since SEC play began, Burns has given up five home runs and 23 runs in four starts. This season, it seems like Burns is either striking batters out or giving up home runs, but Friday night, he struck out just three batters and surrendered a season-high four walks.
Florida jumped on Burns quick — with two-straight base hits to open the game. Burns got an out, then gave up his first walk of the game, struck out the next batter and then walked in the first run of the game. Florida’s seven-hole hitter Matt Prevesk took an 0-2 pitch over the left-center for a ground-rule double, and the Vols found themselves down early — a pretty consistent pattern lately.
Tennessee’s offense answered with a Jared Dickey, two-out double, but Christian Moore flew out to right field to end the inning without pushing across the runner in scoring position.
A one-out walk turned into a two-run home run in the top of the second when UF shortstop Josh Rivera took Burns deep out of his three-hole spot in the lineup.
In the bottom of the second, Tennessee showed some life when Blake Burke led the inning off with a base hit and Zane Denton followed with his eighth home run of the year, making it 5-2 Gators after two innings.
Burns’ one clean half inning came in the third, and it wasn’t without its own difficulties. Burns hit the leadoff batter, then Florida’s Colby Halter reached on a fielder’s choice and subsequently stole second base. Halter got to third on a passed ball, but Burns struck out Ty Evans to get out of the inning without giving up a run.
Tennessee’s bats went innings three-through-six without plating a run, while Florida put up two runs in the fourth and fifth frames. Burns got a lead-off out in the fourth before giving up back-to-back home runs and a walk before Vitello replaced him with Zander Sechrist.
Sechrist induced an inning-ending double play in the fourth, but gave up a single and a subsequent two-run home run in the fifth before Vitello pulled him for Andrew Lindsey. Lindsey got two lineouts to end the inning. Despite a Zane Denton error at third to start the sixth, Lindsey went on to strike out two of the three batters he faced in the sixth inning and put a zero up on the scoreboard.
Tennessee managed a run in the seventh, the third and final run allowed by UF starter Hurston Waldrep, off a Griffin Merritt, pinch-hit single. Denton and Kavares Tears drew back-to-back, one-out walks, and Vitello brought Merritt in off the bench to replace Christian Scott (who went 0-2 on the night with two strikeouts). Waldrep’s final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 9 Ks.
It ended up that the run in the seventh was the offense’s final run of the game.
If you’re looking for a bright spot, Tennessee’s bullpen was lights out tonight, except for the two runs given up by Sechrist.
Lindsey went 1.2 IP with two Ks, Bryce Jenkins struck out five in 2 IP and Jake Fitzgibbons struck out the side in the top of the ninth in his only inning of work. Jenkins’ ERA dropped to 0.87 in his 10 appearance of the season. On the flip side, Chase Burns ERA broke the 6-run threshold and sits at 6.10 after Florida had its way with him early in the game. He’s currently got the worst ERA on the team
Another common theme in SEC play for the Vols: hitters 7-9 (Tears, Jake Kendro, Scott) went hitless in a combined seven at bats and struck out five times in the process. All in all, the Vols had six hits but stranded five runners and had another costly defensive mistake in a game where there’s little-to-no margin of error.
One final note: Shortstop and leadoff hitter Maui Ahuna was a late scratch from the game with some sort of nagging injury on the back of his body, per Vitello’s in-game interview.
We’ll see if Tennessee can scratch out a win in the final game of the series to avoid the sweep like it did against LSU tomorrow with Drew Beam on the mound. First-pitch scheduled for 2 PM, weather permitting. Florida will throw Jac Caglione tomorrow, who played first the first two games of the series and went 2-5 tonight, hitting his 19th home run of the year, which leads the NCAA.