Rebels rough up Gators to open key baseball series

Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey, File)

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OXFORD, Miss. — Florida’s key SEC baseball series got off to a rough start Friday after No. 18 Ole Miss pounded out a 12-4 win.

No. 21 Florida (21-11, 4-6 SEC) took a 2-0 lead in the third inning with a two-out, two-run single from Brady McConnell.

“I thought the mindset of our team was good to start the game, scored a couple runs there,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Brady McConnell had a really good day at the plate, had a big two-strike, two-out hit the other way – actually had two hits the other way – and had a home run.

“As a whole, we played really good defense. But unfortunately we didn’t get a very good start on the mound, some balls found the middle of the plate.”

The Rebels (21-10, 6-4) answered in the bottom half with a pair of homers to take a 3-2 lead.

Ole Miss added four runs in the fourth. Three straight singles brought in one run before Cooper Johnson’s two-run single made it 7-2.

The Gators got a pair back in the fifth on solo home runs by Brady Smith, a shot to left center, his third of the year, and McConnell’s team-best sixth homer of the year to cut the deficit to 7-4.

Ole Miss blew it open in the late innings by scoring a pair of runs on two hits in the seventh and Johnson made it 12-4 with a three-run homer in the eighth.

Gators’ starting pitcher Tommy Mace (5-3) didn’t make it out of the fourth inning.

“The theme that we’ve been going through the whole year is we’ve been giving up rebound runs,” O’Sullivan said. “I think it’s 22 times this year when our offense has scored our pitcher has gone out there and given up runs after we’ve scored so we lose momentum there. With a 2-0 lead everybody’s feeling good about themselves, then five pitches into the inning we’re down a run … credit the Ole Miss hitters, they did a nice job tonight.

“It’s hard when you’ve got a lead and then give it up early, especially on the road on a Friday night, when you get the momentum – I felt like the dugout was in a good place and we were playing with some confidence, then we lost the lead and it took the wind out of our sails a little bit.”

Note: Due to impending inclement weather this weekend, the series will wrap up with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. ET today. Both games will be broadcast on the Gators Sports Network and will stream online via SEC Network+ through the WatchESPN app.