Bullpen Falters, Comeback Short for Gators

Same old issue. This time against Jacksonville. After having control of the game after two-thirds of the innings, the Florida Gators bullpen falters for the final three innings, resulting in an eventual 10-9 loss.

A solid night by Tommy Mace goes to waste. As did another night of the Gators’ explosive offense.

If the Gators had tossed a scoreless inning in just any of the final three innings, this game could have either been won or at least gone to extra innings.

Games are More Than Six Innings

The Gators seem to always put up six strong innings of baseball a game. This time, it was the first six innings of the game.

The first three and a half innings were completely scoreless. Then, designated hitter Jordan Butler singled and made it to second on an error.

In the next at-bat, Sterlin Tompson ripped a 1-2 pitch down the left-field for a triple, scoring Butler and giving the Gators a 1-0 lead.

Kris Armstong flew out to right the following at-bat, allowing Thompson to tag up, making it 2-0.

The Dolphins quickly answered in the top of the fifth.

Ruben Someillan singled to left to plate Dakota Julylia and Jackson Grabsky and tie the game. The next two half frames would resume the prior wave of scoreless ball. After this, there would be just one scoreless frame the rest of the game, and unfortunately for the Gators, it would be while they were at the plate.

The Gators took back the lead in the bottom of the sixth off a home run by Armstrong, making it 4-2. This would be Florida’s final lead.

Remember, A Game is Nine Innings

A major problem with the Gators trending to having about six strong innings of baseball a game is the other three innings tend to get disastrous.

Jacksonville proceeded to score three runs in the seventh inning, one run in the eighth inning and four runs in the ninth. The Gators plate just one run during that stretch and would enter the bottom of the ninth down 10-5.

The Attempted Comeback

The Gators’ offense came back to life in the bottom of the ninth. Before the first out was recorded, the following rallied occurred:

Colby Halter walked after being down in an 0-2 count, and Josh Rivera homered to make it 10-7. Jacob Young walked on four-straight pitches and Jud Fabian took a ball to left field to make it 10-9. It looked like the Gators might still come out on top. However, the rally came to a grinding halt after Fabian’s home run.

Nathan Hickey struck out, then Kirby McMullen flew out. Suddenly, two are gone. Butler singled to get the tying run on base, but Kendrick Calilao hit a fly ball to left field in the next at-bat for the final out of the game. Jacksonville comes in and upsets Florida to take game one of the weekend.

Takeaways

To be honest, while the ninth-inning comeback attempt was admirable, it shouldn’t have had to happen. If the bullpen did its job, there wouldn’t have been a need for a bottom of the ninth in that game.

Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan admitted in a midweek press conference that he wasn’t sure if the team was ready for SEC play yet. This game showed things are not yet in the right direction. Friday night was the Saturday loss to Miami 2.0. Back then, the excuse was it’s Miami and it was the first weekend of the year.

But issues continued against UNF and Samford–and now Jacksonville. Even if Florida can outscore the Dolphins the rest of the weekend, it could get ugly on Tuesday against Florida State and the conference slate that follows.

The Gators return Saturday night, trying to salvage the series. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m., and those who cannot attend can catch coverage on 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF.

About Harrison Smajovits

Harrison is a sports coordinator at ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF. He served as a beat writer for Florida Gators football for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He also contributes to WRUF's Gainesville Sports Center segments and makes appearances on the Clash on Harp on Sports. Harrison has been a content writer for WRUF since January 2019 as well.

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