Gators drop first home SEC series
Published: Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 4:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 4:52 p.m.
On a day when the smaller picture was smeared with hot garbage and opened mustard packs, Kevin O'Sullivan wanted to make sure that his team — and its fans — didn't lose sight of the bigger picture.
Florida's Senior Day was a disaster in every way, a 16-2 loss to Vanderbilt in a game where nothing went right.
“You know, 48 hours ago, we were in a real good place,” the Florida coach said. “I don't want guys jumping off a cliff. We have to move on.
“My message to the team is that we're in first place with three games to go. Everyone in that locker room would have taken that at the start of the season. It was a disappointing day and it was a disappointing weekend, but we've had a helluva season.”
The No. 4 Gators were pretty much out of the rubber game of their series before their first at-bat, giving up eight runs in the top of the first to No. 18 Vanderbilt. By the time the Gators finally scored, it was 16-0.
“It was an all-around bad effort,” said shortstop Richie Martin. “You think about it for a night and then you flush it.”
Florida still has a magic number of one to win the SEC East outright with Vanderbilt now three games back. The Gators (34-18 and 19-8) face South Florida on Tuesday before finishing up the regular season with three games at Tennessee beginning Thursday.
Vandy (38-14, 16-11) plays host to South Carolina for its final three games of the weekend.
Florida did finish its SEC home season with an impressive 12-3 record despite losing the final two games to Vanderbilt.
“It's tough when things get out of hand early,” said freshman Buddy Reed, who had three hits. “It was just one of those days.”
It was hardly a day to remember.
Florida, with no true seniors on the roster, honored three fourth-year juniors on Senior Day and one of them had a forgettable performance on the mound. Karsten Whitson got the start and didn't last long. He walked the first three batters he faced (throwing 12 balls in his first 16 pitches) before giving up a two-run single to Zander Wiel.
After a sacrifice bunt, Vandy shortstop Vince Conde hammered a long home run into the left-field bleachers to make it 5-0.
A.J. Puk replaced Whitson and struck out the first batter he faced on a ball in the dirt. But on a play that summed up the day for the Gators, catcher Tyler Gushue threw the ball away down the right-field line for only his second error of the season.
After a walk and a popped up bunt, Vandy's Dansby Swanson drilled a three-run homer to left that just cleared the fence.
“It just kind of spiraled out of control,” O'Sullivan said. “I didn't see it coming.”
The eight runs scored in the inning tied the most Florida has allowed this season. UF gave up eight runs in the eighth in a win over Kentucky on April 5.
Prior to Saturday's debacle, Florida had allowed only 14 total runs in the first inning in 51 games.
Vanderbilt added two runs in the third, four in the sixth and two in the seventh. Florida pitchers walked a season-high 10 batters in the game and seven of them scored.
“That's very uncharacteristic for us,” O'Sullivan said. “Sometimes the game is good. Sometimes it's bad.”
Twice in the sixth, Florida pitchers walked a batter with the bases loaded. Florida also hit a pair of batters in the game, both of whom scored.
Oh, and the Gators made three errors in the game.
UF avoided being shut out for the second straight game and broke a 23 2/3-inning scoreless streak when Martin hit his first career homer with one out in the bottom of the eighth.
“My parents were here so I was happy I could share it with them,” Martin said. “But I would have rather won the game.”
Reed added an RBI single in the ninth. Vandy used five pitchers, who allowed eight hits and struck out six Gators.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.