No. 1 Florida (39-7, 15-6 SEC) knocked off Tennessee (24-22, 6-16 SEC) 7-2 on Friday night to take game one.
The Vols stay on the outside of the SEC tournament picture, sitting in last place in the conference.
Florida’s Logan Shore Dazzles UT Hitters
Florida starting pitcher Logan Shore (9-0) was lights out on Friday night. Shore pitched six innings of one run baseball. He allowed seven hits while walking just one batter.
Dave Serrano said that Shore didn’t have his best stuff, but still found a way to win.
“I don’t think that was his A game,” Serrano said. “Good pitchers do what he did tonight. When you’re not on your game you find a way to win.”
Nick Senzel added that Shore did “enough” to get out of some jams.
“We just didn’t hit with runners in scoring position,” Senzel said. “He mixes pitches pretty well. He keeps hitters off balance and throws a lot of strikes. Credit goes to him, he did what he needed to do.”
Gators Take Early Lead, Never Look Back
Florida jumped on Tennessee early, plating two runs in the first by way of a Peter Alonso double. Freshman starter Will Neely would bounce back well. He held the Gators scoreless in the second and third innings.
Vincent Jackson put Tennessee on the board with an infield single in the third. The Gators would answer with three straight one run innings in the fourth through sixth innings. Tyler Schultz got one back for the Vols in the bottom of the sixth, smacking a double to the left field wall. Jordan Rodgers would come home to make it 5-2 Gators.
Daniel Vazquez came in to pitch the seventh, but only lasted a third of an inning. The freshman gave up two earned runs off three hits and a walk. That made it 7-2 Florida. Steven Kane did not allow a hit in his 2.2 innings of work.
Late Notice Again for Neely
UT’s normal Friday starter Aaron Soto is suspended for this weekend’s series due to a “violation of team rules.” Once again, Will Neely started a SEC game versus a top five opponent on a days notice.
“Coach texted me yesterday and asked me if my arm was good enough today,” Neely said. “It’s not like high school, you can’t just throw the ball anywhere.”
Neely pitched six innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits. The Knoxville native said Friday night’s game plan was fairly simple.
“Against these kinds of team you have less room for error,” Neely said. “You can’t leave the ball up at all. Those guys are great hitters. It was tough even with two strikes to get them out.”
The Bottom Line
This wasn’t a game that Tennessee expected to win, by any means. Going up against a pitcher like Shore was always going to be a tough assignment. Once again, Tennessee hit the ball hard right at guys in the field.
The Vols had plenty of opportunities to score, but stranded eight runners on base. Serrano called that a “backbreaker.”
“When you’re playing a team that’s so talented, and you have those opportunities, you have to take advantage of them,” Serrano said. “You can’t allow them to get out of those circumstances, because they’re just going to keep piling it on.”
Nick Senzel was 2-for-4 against the Gators, showing that a short slump a couple weeks ago is well behind him. Jordan Rodgers continues to struggle at the plate. He was 0-for-4 with a run scored. Rodgers stranded four runners in two inning ending plate appearances. In order for Tennessee to steal a game against Florida, Rodgers needs to heat up.
Dave Serrano turns to Zach Warren on Saturday. He’ll be matched up against Baseball America’s No. 1 overall prospect for the 2016 MLB draft, Junior A.J. Puk (2-2, 2.87 ERA). Warren will have to be lights out to match Puk on the mound. Senior lefty Andy Cox will almost certainly come out of the pen for the Vols if UT has the lead late.
Game two is set for 4 p.m. ET from Lindsey Nelson Stadium.