May 15, 2014
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Two Tennessee errors on a stolen base by Florida in the top of the 11th allowed the 13th-ranked Gators to squeak out a 6-5 victory in the series opener at Lindsey Nelson Stadium on Thursday evening.
After a one-out single, Harrison Bader took off in an attempt to steal second two batters later. The throw down bounced off the runner into center where it was misplayed, allowing Bader to race around the bases and score the game-winning run and give the Gators (36-18, 20-8) at least a share of the SEC championship.
"It's frustrating but I'm not disappointed in our players though," UT head coach Dave Serrano said. "They're hurting in there right now, in the locker room. Like I told them, tomorrow's a new day. I know this one stings, this definitely stings. We went toe-to-toe with the eventual champion of the SEC and came up short. We were an out away from sealing this down and we couldn't do it. That's what champions do late in games. I give kudos to Florida and Coach (Kevin) O'Sullivan and his staff for what they've accomplished, but it's tough for us.
"We have a goal too. We have a goal to get this program to the SEC Tournament. That hasn't been taken away from us. It would've been a lot easier if we would've closed that out tonight, but we didn't. I have heard that both teams that are chasing us lost. So, the baseball gods are looking down on us a little bit, but we've still got to do something. We have to do it ourselves. We can't rely on someone else to beat the teams that are chasing us. It will feel a lot better if we take care of business ourselves."
With Auburn and Georgia both losing on Thursday, the Vols (30-21, 11-17) continue to control their own destiny in regards to the SEC Tournament. They will look to tie the series with Florida on Friday with first pitch set for 6 p.m. Recent UT graduate Nick Williams will take the mound for his final career start in his hometown.
Senior Taylor Smart paced a 14-hit UT offensive effort with two hits, including a three-run home run, his third of the year and second in the team's last two SEC contests. Scott Price, Christin Stewart, Derek Lance and David Houser each had two hits in the game as well.
Freshman right-hander Hunter Martin gave the Big Orange seven solid innings on the mound, tying for the longest outing of his young career. He yielded four runs on seven hits while striking out five.
Sophomore Andrew Lee (4-4) suffered the loss for UT, allowing two runs - one earned - and striking out three in three innings on the mound. Ryan Harris (3-1) pitched a scoreless frame of relief to pick up the win for Florida.
Tennessee used a two-out rally to crack the scoreboard as Stewart lined a single to right and then scored from first on a double down the left-field line by Nick Senzel.
The Gators answered right back, however, with Peter Alonso launching a three-run shot on to "The Porch" in left in the top of the second to put his squad up 3-1.
Down 4-1 going into the bottom of the sixth after another UF tally in the fifth, the Vols quickly put two runners in scoring position with just one out after back-to-back singles and a sac bunt to open the frame. It looked like the Gators might get out of the jam after a big strikeout, but Smart crushed the very first pitch he saw on to "The Porch" in left to knot the game back up at 4-4.
That is where the score would remain until the bottom of the eighth when the Big Orange would take a 5-4 lead on a two-out bloop single into center by Will Maddox.
Needing just three outs to close out the victory, Tennessee got the first one quickly on a line out to center. After a one-out single, Florida put the baserunner in motion as a groundball was hit to short. Instead of a game-ending double play, the Vols had to pitch to another batter and Bader made them pay, tying the game with a double off the wall in right. The Vols would go down in order in the bottom of the ninth to send them to extra innings for the school-record fourth consecutive game.