GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Sophomore Buddy Reed snapped a 4-4 tie with a two-run, bases-loaded single in the eighth inning and freshman Mike Rivera added an RBI single in the frame as No. 5 Florida captured the rubber game of its weekend series with Alabama, 7-4, on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The Gators (23-6/5-4 SEC) had evened the game against the Crimson Tide (14-12/4-5 SEC) in the seventh inning on a two-out solo homer by freshman Jeremy Vasquez.
Junior Richie Martin (1-for-3, two runs) opened the scoring in the fourth inning with a leadoff homer to left field off of sophomore Geoffrey Bramblett. It was Martin's second round-tripper of the season and first since Feb. 15 against Rhode Island.
Freshman Cody Henry answered for the Crimson Tide with a game-tying, two-out RBI double in the fifth. After sophomore right-hander Dane Dunning retired the first two batters of the stanza, senior J.C. Wilhite (2-for-4) had an infield single and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Henry's double into left center scored Wilhite and freshman Chandler Avant (2-for-5) followed with a single for runners on the corners before Dunning induced a ground ball from junior Georgie Salem that forced Avant at second for the final out.
A two-run single in the home part of the inning by sophomore Ryan Larson moved the Gators back in front, 3-1. Freshman JJ Schwarz opened the frame with a single into left field, Rivera was hit by a pitch and Vasquez moved his teammates into scoring position with his first career sacrifice bunt. With the infield drawn in, Larson poked a base-knock up the middle.
Alabama seized a 4-3 lead in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by junior Kyle Overstreet and a two-run homer by sophomore Will Haynie. Sophomore Casey Hughston had drawn a one-out walk, stole second and went to third on an errant relay throw to set up the sac fly. After a two-out infield single by junior Chance Vincent, Haynie connected on a two-run shot into the left-field bleachers to give the visitors the lead and prompt a pitching change. Sophomore A.J. Puk replaced Dunning (5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R) and completed the frame with a strikeout.
Vasquez knotted the game at four runs apiece in the seventh with a two-out solo homer over the right-field wall. It was his second big fly of the series and of his rookie campaign.
In the eighth, freshman Dalton Guthrie led off with a walk and Martin's sacrifice bunt attempt was misplayed, resulting in two Gators aboard. Junior Harrison Bader pushed his teammates into scoring position with a bunt and senior Josh Tobias (2-for-3) was walked intentionally to load the bases with one down. Sophomore Thomas Burrows replaced junior Jake Hubbard (2-2) and Reed greeted the southpaw with a two-run single through the left side of the infield. With two down, Rivera came through with an RBI single into right field that brought home Tobias for a three-run advantage. The single raised Rivera's hitting streak to eight games and gave him eight straight contests with an RBI.
In his first relief appearance of the year, Puk (5-2) worked 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and registering five strikeouts, to pick up the victory.