By JM Soracchi, Correspondent
All weekend long against Tennessee, the Florida baseball team couldn’t avoid a big inning from the Vols offense.
Despite holding a 4-1 lead after six complete innings, the Gators allowed Tennessee to score four in the top of the seventh to suffer a 5-4 loss Sunday at McKethan Stadium.
Florida went 1-2 in the crucial SEC series and is now 30-23 overall and 10-17 in the league. The Gators appear to be on the outside looking in for an NCAA regional tournament bid.
Florida goes on the road starting Thursday for a three-game series at Missouri and is in must-win mode.
“We’re in a difficult position,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “We’ve never really been in this position before.
“It’s just kind of the same thing, we gave up the big inning.”
A great outing by freshman pitcher Nick Pogue in his second career start was wasted. The freshman allowed a hit, walk and run in 5.1 innings of work and left his outing holding a three-run lead.
After five shutout innings against USF on Tuesday, Pogue gave up one run, three hits, two walks and struck out six to give the Gators pitching staff a boost.
“I thought I threw really well,” Pogue said. “Again, I was able to work off fastball command. My change-up was a little off today but I was able to work out of it.”
The game was tied 1-1 after three innings after Tennessee’s Evan Russell hit a solo home run in the second and a fielder’s choice on a grounder by Brady McConnell scored Jud Fabian in the third.
The Gators took the lead for the first time in the fifth inning after Fabian’s single during a well-executed hit-and-run plated Jacob Young.
McConnell then hit his third home run of the weekend and, with it, set a record for home runs by a Gators shortstop in a single season with 15. McConnell surpassed Mark Ellis, who hit 14 in 1998.
Langworthy made it back-to-back jacks for Florida, just the second time the Gators have accomplished that feat. The junior from Williston knocked the ball off the scoreboard bearing his likeness to put Florida up 4-1.
Tennessee (35-17, 12-15) struck back in the top of the seventh when Vols junior shortstop Ricky Martinez hit a three-run homer off reliever Nolan Crisp – Martinez’s first of the season – to tie the contest at 4.
A single by Connor Pavolony and double from Justin Ammons put runners on second and third right after and Tennessee took the lead when Pavolony came home on Jay Charleston’s groundout.
In the eighth inning, McConnell and Langworthy looked close to tying the game with one swing but both of the players’ bid for a second home run in the game died on the warning track as long outs to right field.
“As far as the team goes, it’s just extremely disappointing,” Langworthy said.
Who: Florida vs. Missouri
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday
Where: Taylor Stadium at Simmons Field, Columbia, Mo.
Online: SEC Network+
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM