The Florida Gator baseball team fell to Florida Atlantic University Tuesday night in a frustrating 5-4 loss in 11 innings. The winning run scored on a double steal with runners at first and third base. The Gators fall to 4-2 in extra innings this season and their four game winning streak is snapped.
The Orange and Blue scored three runs right off the bat in the first inning. Casey Turgeon and Richie Martin drew back to back walks and Harrison Bader loaded the bases with a single to left. Taylor Gushue drove home a run on a sacrifice fly and Braden Mattson singled in a run; he advanced to second on an outfield error, allowing Bader to advance to third and Marin to score. Justin Shafer plated Bader with an RBI ground out.
The Owls responded in the bottom half of the inning with back to back singles and an RBI ground out to put one on the board for Florida Atlantic against Gator starter Karsten Whitson, who pitched two innings.
He would be replaced by freshman lefty A.J. Puk, who managed to tie his season high of six strikeouts while allowing a run on three hits. Gator coach Kevin O’Sullivan would turn to four additional pitchers from his bullpen including Shaun Anderson, Danny Young, Ryan Harris, and Aaron Rhodes.
The Owls cut the lead to 3-2 in the fifth on a solo homer from CJ Chatham, and the Owls would tie the game against Anderson who gave up a run on three hits on 1.1 innings of work. FAU struck again in the sixth, scoring a run off a double to left center, followed by an RBI single, evening the score at 3-3.
The Orange and Blue went scoreless until the sixth inning. The Gators put two runners on via a single by Mattson and a hit by pitch by Shafer. After a double steal, John Sternagel gave Florida a 4-3 lead with a sacrifice fly. But the Owls got back to back doubles in the seventh inning against reliever Danny Young to tie the game again.
Ryan Harris relieved Young in the seventh inning and allowed no runs on three hits in 1.2 innings while striking out six. Florida fanned a season high 19 batters in the game. Aaron Rhodes came in with the bases loaded in the ninth inning with only one out and got out of the jam on a leaping catch of a line drive by second baseman Casey Turgeon and a soft liner that was also snagged by Turgeon.
In the bottom of the ninth, Sternagel singled and pinch-hitter Jason Lombardozzi followed with a bunt single. But Buddy Reed, trying to sacrifice, bunted and Sternagel was thrown out at third. Turgeon and Richie Martin grounded out and free baseball followed.
The Owls won the game in the 11th. After one out back to back singles and a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners FAU pulled off the double steal that won the game.
O’Sullivan was disappointed in his team for the loss.
“The bottom line is we scored three (runs) in the first and one run over the next 10 (innings). We threw away a lot of at bats. I didn’t think the team was ready to play; we got them together after the third inning. I warned them after the game on Sunday that it was a heck of a week and we should be proud of what we accomplished, but Tuesday is a different ballgame. Unfortunately, we just didn’t tack on any more runs,” explained O’Sullivan.
Despite the outcome, O’Sullivan says the Owls simply earned this win.
“Credit Florida Atlantic, they did a really nice job. Their pitchers threw strikes and they made some really nice plays in the outfield. They deserved the win.”
Up next for the Gators is a eight-game road trip which will start with a series at No. 19 Kentucky starting on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
To hear audio from Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan click below: