No. 9 Florida may have tallied another SEC series win in the books this weekend, but it came up short in the sweep attempt against Georgia on Sunday. UF’s power-hitting offense that led to four home runs on Saturday was nowhere to be found, and starting pitcher Franco Alemán struggled with consistency, once again, having one of his shakiest outings of the season. The Gators were never really competitive in a 6-1 loss.
Alemán opened the game with a strikeout, and things just went downhill from there. He gave up singles on the next two at-bats, and cleanup hitter Garrett Blaylock made him pay with a three-run homer to give Georgia (29-20, 12-15 SEC) a nice early cushion that UF (35-16, 17-10 SEC) would spend the rest of the game trying to claw away at.
The top of the second didn’t start much better for Alemán, as he gave up a leadoff solo homer to Chaney Rogers. Luckily for UF, it finally got something going off Georgia’s Johnathan Cannon at the bottom of the frame after managing just a walk in the first.
Kendrick Calilao singled and advanced to second on an error, and a wild pitch moved him to third. A single from Sterlin Thompson brought him home, but Florida trailed 4-1 and couldn’t bring any additional runners across in that inning (or for the rest of the game).
Alemán settled down a little bit after that, only allowing three more hits over the next four innings, but his day came to an end after the first batter he faced in the seventh reached on a throwing error from Josh Rivera. Alemán gave up five runs (four of them earned) and struck out just three batters in a losing effort, moving his record on the season to an unimpressive 1-3.
Trey Van der Weide entered in his stead, but he walked his first batter in five pitches. Against his second batter, he forced a fielder’s choice bunt but made a throwing error on the play that cost Florida another run. He got a groundout after that, but coach Kevin O’Sullivan elected to bring in UF’s closer, Jack Leftwich, anyway.
With two runners on, Leftwich couldn’t avoid another run coming across as he gave up an RBI single to Cole Tate in his first at-bat. Leftwich pitched the rest of the game, only allowing one more hit, but UF couldn’t get a late rally going offensively.
The Gators had two runners in scoring position at the bottom of the seventh, but nothing came of it. They were retired in the eighth and ninth innings in order by a tag team of Bulldogs pitchers in Luke Wagner and Ben Harris respectively, as UGA salvaged a single win out of a series loss to a top-10 team.
The regular season is almost finished for Florida, who currently sits in third place in the SEC East with two more losses than both Tennessee and Vanderbilt. UF can still influence its seeding in the SEC Tournament, though, with arguably the most important series of the season coming up next weekend.
With no midweek games, Florida travels to Fayetteville to take on the No. 1-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks. The Gators previously won a series against the nation’s No. 2 team, Vanderbilt, but they had the benefit of the comfortable confines of Florida Ballpark for that one.
Now, UF hits the road trying to steal a series against the best team in the land and lock up a spot as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. First pitch for Friday night’s Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. EDT.