The lone bright spot in the Gators’ opening matchup versus the No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers was when Florida Ballpark was rebranded after Gator booster Gary Condron, who has donated more money than any other single donor, to Condron Ballpark (yes, the game was that bad for Florida.) The Volunteers plated seven runs against Florida baseball in the top of the second, allowing them to cruise to a comfortable 8-2 victory.
Tennessee’s batting practice started in the second inning when starter Ryan Slater walked first baseman Luc Lipcius. Slater was starting in place of ace Hunter Barco who was ruled out for an indefinite period of time due to elbow discomfort. Catcher Evan Russell then doubled to put two Tennessee runners in scoring position before designated hitter Christian Moore singled to drive in Lipcius.
Then the dam broke.
Shortstop Cortland Lawson singled but right fielder Sterlin Thompson committed an error attempting to field the ball, scoring Russell and Moore. Slater finally tallied the first out of the inning with a foul out but then plunked the next batter. Right fielder Josh Beck singled to right field, plating Lawson. Then after an infield fly, Slater surrendered a three-run blast to Trey Lipscomb to conclude Tennessee’s offensive outburst.
Florida broke the shutout when Thompson grounded out to score second baseman Colby Halter in the third. Florida and Tennessee plated another run in the fifth inning to get to the final score of 8-2.
Head coach Kevin O'Sullivan wanted to save his bullpen for the rest of the series and didn’t pull Slater in the second inning. He finished going 4 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits, four walks, eight earned runs and two strikeouts.
Florida, in the batter’s box, did manage to push across two runs while only recording three hits. Designated hitter Mac Guscette went one for three and an RBI. His lone hit was a solo shot to left field.
The Gators will attempt to regroup for Game 2 Saturday at 6:30 p.m. EDT.
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