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Florida baseball drops heartbreaker at Vanderbilt; how to watch the series this weekend

Special to Gator Sports

Florida baseball kicked off the holiday weekend series Friday night against the Vanderbilt Commodores with a 5-4 walk-off loss in Nashville

Jud Fabian got things started early with a two-run homer following a walk by Colby Halter to open the game. The home run was the centerfielder's 14th of the season and fifth in SEC play, giving the No. 23 Gators (21-13, 5-8 SEC) an early lead.

Hunter Barco started for Florida and could not keep Vandy (24-9, 6-7 SEC) off the board in the bottom of the first frame, allowing three straight singles that plated a run after striking out the first two batters he faced. 

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Barco lasted just two innings on the mound and received a no-decision after allowing two earned runs on four hits and one walk. The Florida ace struck out four.

Coach Kevin O'Sullivan said that Barco was coming off being sick and looked "a little run down" early, so he put Nick Ficarrotta in to start the third.

Florida was ahead early, but Vandy tied the game 4-4 in the sixth. Each team left two runners on base in the seventh, and Florida made yet another pitching change. This time it was relief ace Blake Purnell for his 20th appearance of the season. The Commodores brought in junior Thomas Schultz in the eighth to counter.

After a scoreless eighth inning from Purnell, the Commodores got to the Gators in the bottom of the ninth. Vanderbilt loaded up the bases with no outs and Jack Bulger came through with a walk-off single to right center, bringing home Enrique Bradfield Jr. for the winning run.

Purnell was saddled with the loss, allowing one earned run across 1 1/3 frames. The right-hander gave up three hits and two walks while striking out two. 

"This has nothing to do with Blake. He's been great for us all year long," O'Sullivan said after the game. "I thought offensively we were good. ... We saw their three best arms. I can sum this game up really in the top of the sixth. Did a four-pitch walk to start the inning with a two-run lead. Once again, we figured out a way to give up two runs with one hit."

Fabian (2-for-4) and Wyatt Langford (2-for-4) picked up multiple hits.

"You got to figure out a way to get the ball across the plate," the coach said of losing the lead. "I thought we pitched really good for three innings. When your starter goes two, we need somebody to step up and go four or five. We weren't able to do that. We are pitching well enough to stay in games, but we aren't pitching well enough to win games."

Where and when is Florida and Vanderbilt baseball series being held?

Where: Hawkins Field in Nashville.

When: 7 p.m. tonight and 1 p.m. on Sunday

How can I watch the Gators baseball team against Vanderbilt? 

Game 2 at 7 tonight is on the SEC Network. Sunday's 1 p.m. finale is on ESPN2.

Live stream: ESPN+, ESPN.com, WatchESPN and the ESPN app.

The games also are on radio at ESPN 98.1FM, 850-AM WRUF (Gainesville), WJXL 1010AM (Jacksonville).