KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The twelfth-ranked Florida Gators baseball team (21-11, 6-6 SEC) battled back to beat the sixth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers in the final game of a three-day series between the top-15 teams on Sunday.
Jordan Butler got things going for the Gators in the second inning, leading off with a double into right field to put a runner in scoring position with no outs. Two batters later, Colby Halter doubled to almost the exact same spot, watching his ball hop over the fence for a ground-rule double and sending Butler home for the Gators' first run.
As was the story all weekend, the Volunteers answered in the bottom of the inning with a run of their own. Jordan Beck recorded a leadoff walk, which Luc Lipcius followed with a double into right field. Evan Russell and Liam Spence also recorded walks in the inning, one of which brought in Beck to tie the score.
Both teams remained knotted at one run apiece, entering the fourth inning. Josh Rivera led off for Florida, recording his first of two hits with a double to left field. Three batters later, Jacob Young went yard for the first time since March 10 against Stetson, putting the Gators up 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Again, Tennessee answered with a rally of its own, posting three runs in the bottom of the inning to reclaim the lead after a pair of Gators errors gave Tennessee batters four extra bases and a wild pitch brought another runner home.
Things went from bad to worse for the Gators an inning later when Tennessee added another two runs to its lead after Lipcius walked and Connor Pavolony rocked the ball over the fence. Three pitches later, Russell doubled down the left field line and head coach Kevin O'Sullivan made the second pitching change of the inning, bringing in sophomore Christian Scott.
Scott would prove to be the guiding force against the Vols, giving up one hit in 16 at-bats while recording one walk and retiring six batters himself.
Florida cut the Tennessee lead by one in the seventh inning after Jacob Young was hit by a pitch and Nathan Hickey walked. A wild pitch put both runners in scoring position and Kirby McMullen stepped up to the plate, grounding out to third base, but bringing Young home.
The Gators entered the eighth inning down two runs. Josh Rivera singled into left field and Colby Halter doubled to right-center two pitches later. O'Sullivan gambled, subbing Kris Armstrong into the lineup as a pinch hitter for Jordan Carrion with two runners on and one out.
The gamble proved worthy as the sophomore hammered the ball against the wind and over the right field fence for a three-run homerun that put the Gators up one with an inning and a half to play.
The Gators held onto their lead for the first time all series and handed Tennessee its first home conference loss.
FROM COACH KEVIN O'SULLIVAN
On his thoughts...
"This league is not easy and it's difficult to navigate through the 30 games. Obviously, today had some importance to it because we wanted to get back home and be .500. What I told the team at the end is in 2017, I believe we started 6-6 in the league and went on kind of a run after that. Hopefully, a game like this can give us a little confidence moving forward. A lot of guys contributed. Obviously, the play by Cory (Acton) there to end the game was huge. Kris (Armstrong) coming off the bench, hitting a three-run homer. Christian Scott's outing was outstanding on the mound."
On moving forward...
"The bottom line is we had a chance to win all three ballgames. Just a couple pitches got away from us yesterday and put us in a tough spot. I thought yesterday, the first five innings was as good as we've played all year long and we took it into today. We showed a lot of resiliency so hopefully we can learn from this and move forward."
ON DECK: The Gators return to action on Tuesday night when they host No. 17 Florida State at Florida Ballpark. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET and will air on the SEC Network with radio coverage provided on ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF.