Ryan Larson grabbed the ball off the wall in left-center field and hurled it back to the infield. When shortstop Dalton Guthrie bobbled the cutoff and underthrew the toss home, Tennessee’s Justin Ammons crossed home plate with relative ease and celebrated the eventual game-winning run in the top of the 10th inning.
Tennessee, a team that had just one conference win heading into the weekend, will now leave Gainesville with the series over the No. 7 Gators after winning its second straight extra-inning contest, this one a 3-2 decision on Saturday night. The Volunteers won the series opener 7-6 on Friday.
“We’ve won our share of one-run games, and now we’ve lost a couple in a row,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “All we can do is come back tomorrow and play a little better.”
Regulars Deacon Liput, Jonathan India and JJ Schwarz were also suspended from Saturday’s game due to a violation of team rules. O’Sullivan said they will return for Sunday’s series finale.
Poor baserunning and a short lineup due to the suspensions ultimately doomed the Gators (20-11, 5-6 SEC).
In the second inning, Larson hesitated on a one-out hit-and-run, forcing him to stay at second instead of advancing to third. A Mark Kolozsvary single on the next at-bat loaded the bases instead of potentially bringing Larson home. Garrett Milchin, who started at first because of Schwarz’s suspension, grounded into a double play immediately after to squander the scoring opportunity.
In the fifth, Blake Reese, who started at second base in place of Liput, mistimed his jump from second base when Nelson Maldonado ripped a pitch to right field. As he rounded third and was about 10 feet past the bag, he stopped after third-base coach Craig Bell called him off. Reese ended up caught in a rundown. Larson grounded out the next at-bat to strand Maldonado.
It ruined another quality start for sophomore Brady Singer, who gave up just two earned runs and six hits over 7 1/3 innings. The 6-5 righty, who was coming off back-to-back complete games, struck out eight batters and walked just two on the night.
In four conference starts, Singer has given up just six runs in 32 1/3 innings, good for a 1.67 ERA. But with a hot-and-cold offense behind him, he is 2-1 in conference play.
“It’s frustrating, but you know, that’s baseball,” Singer said.
Tennessee (17-11, 3-8 SEC) opened scoring in the third when Ammons hit a first-pitch single to left field to score Reggie Southall. The Gators responded with two runs in the fourth on a Kolozsvary RBI triple and a Milchin RBI single on back-to-back at-bats before the Volunteers tied it in the sixth with an RBI triple.
Florida almost ended the game in walk-off fashion with two outs in the ninth. A fielder’s choice from Reese and consecutive two-out, full-count walks to Mike Rivera and Maldonado loaded the bases for Larson, who was 7 for 9 in the series heading into that at-bat. Facing an 0-2 count, Larson popped the ball into right-center field for the final out to force extra innings. Tennessee won the game in the next inning off the botched relay.
“I knew I got it good,” Larson said of the bases-loaded swing, “but as soon it was off the bat, I knew it had too much air under it.”