Gainesville, FL - Tennessee (18-24/6-15 SEC) scored two runs in sixth inning to overcome a 2-1 deficit and added an insurance tally in the seventh to salvage its finale at Florida (25-20/12-9 SEC) with a 4-2 victory on Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. After yielding two runs in the opening frame, UT senior right-hander Zack Godley (4-5) held the Gators scoreless the rest of the way en route to his fourth complete game of the campaign. The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak at home for UF and ended an eight-game slide in Gainesville for the Vols dating back to the 2007 campaign.
“I thought he [Bobby Poyner] gave us a good start,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He threw the ball well – well enough to put us in the position to get the win today. The bottom line is that [Zack] Godley threw the ball really well. He’s their No. 1 guy and he’s been doing that all year long. He deserves all of the credit. He doesn’t miss [his spots] and he’s older. He’s an experienced pitcher, a senior, and he’s got a lot of innings under his belt. He’s pitched in some big games and he made some big pitches when he needed to.”
“Obviously, we’re disappointed with the outcome of today, but the bottom line is that we’re playing better. Our starting pitching has been solid all weekend, our relief pitching has been solid, we had some timely hits, we made pitches when we needed to with runners in scoring position and we played great defense all weekend long. Today, you just have to tip your cap to Godley. He did a really good job.”
“We came out on top in the first inning, scored two runs and then their pitcher [Zach Godley] shut us out for eight [innings] in a row,” freshman Richie Martin (Brandon, Fla.) said. “He kept his velocity up the whole game, really located and he had good off-speed so he mixed it up a lot.”
After sophomore Bobby Poyner (Wellington, Fla.) (2-1) retired the side in order to begin his first career SEC start, the Gators jumped out to a 2-0 lead against Godley. Sophomore Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) delivered a single into right field with one down and scored on a two-out triple by sophomore Justin Shafer (Lake Wales, Fla.), his first career three-bagger. Redshirt sophomore Zack Powers (Seffner, Fla.) drew a walk for runners on the corners and senior Vickash Ramjit (Miami, Fla.) legged out an infield single to bring across Shafer with the second run.
Junior Ethan Bennett (2-for-3) cut UT’s deficit in half by leading off the second frame with a homer into the left-field bleachers. It was his third big fly of the campaign.
Junior Taylor Smart reached on an infield single with one down in the fourth but was picked off by Poyner. The lefty ended the stanza with a strikeout of Bennett.
In the bottom of the inning, freshman Harrison Bader (Bronxville, N.Y.) had a one-out single and moved into scoring position on a grounder by senior Cody Dent (Boynton Beach, Fla.). A wild pitch pushed Bader to third and Martin (2-for-4) was hit by a pitch for runners on the corners before Godley had Turgeon fly out to center field to complete the inning.
Tennessee scored twice in the sixth inning to seize a 3-2 advantage. Senior Zach Luther opened the frame with a double into left center and freshman Derek Lance tied the game with an RBI double down the right-field line for his first career hit. A grounder by sophomore Will Maddox advanced Lance to third base and ended the afternoon for Poyner, who matched a career-high with 5.1 innings in which he gave up four hits and three runs. Freshman A.J. Simcox greeted freshman reliever Eric Hanhold (Palm Harbor, Fla.) with a grounder that brought across Lance to give the Vols their first lead of the series. Hanhold struck out Smart to complete the stanza.
UT tacked on another run with two down in the seventh to build a 4-2 lead. Bennett started things off with a single off the wall in left field and freshman Vincent Jackson advanced freshman pinch runner Heath Loyd to second base with a base-hit into right field. Junior Pierce Bily sacrificed his teammates into scoring position with a bunt and junior Daniel Gibson (Lutz, Fla.) was summoned for Hanhold (1.0 IP, 2 H,1 R, 0 ER) with one down and struck out freshman Christin Stewart before giving way to sophomore Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.). A passed ball brought home Loyd for a two-run lead for the visitors and Harris had Luther ground out to end the inning.
Godley had retired eight-straight Gators in the home part of the inning before Martin stroked a one-out single into left field. The right-hander had both Turgeon and sophomore Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) fly out to left field to preserve the two-run margin.
UT had a pair of runners in scoring position in the eighth but was kept at bay by Harris. Maddox was hit by a pitch with one down, stole second and went to third on a grounder by Simcox. Smart earned a free pass and stole second before Harris had freshman pinch hitter Andrew Lee fly out to left field.
Florida resumes action on Thursday night, when it faces No. 2 LSU (39-5/16-4 SEC) in the opener of a three-game series in Baton Rouge. The contest will be carried on ESPNU as the SEC Baseball Game of the Week at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Jeff Cardozo and Steve Russell. Live audio and stats will be available on GatorZone.com and fans can also follow updates of each game on @GatorZoneBB, the official Twitter account of the Gator baseball program.