GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Sophomore left-hander A.J. Puk (4-1) tossed five strong innings and struck out a career-high eight batters, as No. 3 Florida (17-3, 1-1 SEC) evened the series with Tennessee (8-7, 1-1 SEC) with a 8-3 victory on Saturday night at McKethan Stadium.
After zero offensive output until the ninth inning last night, UF flipped the script and posted two runs on three hits in the bottom of the first inning.
Junior Richie Martin (3-for-5) scored on a Harrison Bader sacrifice fly after he reached base on a single and advanced to third on an error by UT's center fielder. Later in the inning, freshman JJ Schwarz extended his hitting streak to eight games as he singled into right-center field, which scored senior Josh Tobias (2-for-3), who singled after Bader's sac-fly.
With the score still knotted at 2-0 in the fifth, Tennessee was able to even the count on a two-run double by UT's catcher David Houser. The Gators quickly answered in the bottom of the frame with an RBI single from Martin and a sac-fly by Tobias, as UF gained its two-run advantage back at 4-2.
One inning later, a pair of firsts led the Gators to a 6-2 lead. Sophomore Buddy Reed (2-for-4) led off the inning with his first career triple and freshman Mike Rivera followed with his first career home run.
The Volunteers added a run in the eighth but UF answered with two of their own in bottom half on a two-run single by freshman Dalton Guthrie, which brought us to our final score of 8-3.
Puk was replaced by LHP Bobby Poyner pitched the final four innings and logged his second save of the season.
Head Coach Kevin O'Sullivan:
On tonight's win:
"We obviously played much better tonight. I thought we were much more relaxed tonight. We were swinging the bats much better. Our bat heads got out as Richie [Martin] had an outstanding night at the plate. Obviously, Dalton [Guthrie] had a big swing in the eighth inning too. Mike Rivera had his first homer, and Josh Tobias hit the ball really hard all night. It was just a really good night. Also, Buddy Reed had a couple knocks too. The middle of our lineup did some damage."
On Florida's pitching tonight:
"I thought A.J. Pukwas really good. He started cramping up in the sixth as I think he was dehydrated, but that's the best five innings he's thrown all year. I thought he was really focused. Then Bobby [Poyner] came in and did his thing. We only had one walk on the night and it was good to get in the win column. The first [SEC] win is always the most difficult one to get."
Heading into the final game of the series:
"Tomorrow is going to be a very difficult game. Tennessee is playing at a high level right now. I like their team, they are physical, they've got pitching, and they've got plenty of bullpen ready for tomorrow, like we do. Tomorrow will be a very difficult game and we will see what happens."
The Gators and Vols will play the series finale tomorrow at McKethan Stadium at 1 p.m. The game can be seen on the SEC Network+ digital platform and can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Jeff Cardozo and Steve Russell.