Brandon Sproat after his win in Knoxville over Tennessee. Photo via @GatorsBB Twitter.

Gator Baseball Uses Home Run Party and Stellar Pitching To Beat Tennessee

The number three Florida Gator baseball team defeated the number 11 Tennessee Volunteers 6-1 on Thursday night. A few long balls and outstanding pitching helped the Gators get the win.Β  In fact, Gator pitching threw seven straight innings of scoreless baseball to seal the victory.

Tennessee struck out a season high 18 times against Florida’s pitching staff and left 13 runners on base.

Florida’s Brandon Sproat and Tennessee’s Chase Dollander toed the rubber against each other in names that could both be top three round draft picks come June.

Even Ballgame After Two

Both offenses were handed a walk in their half of the first inning but couldn’t do much with it. Sproat racked up three strikeouts in the first inning and looked much better than his last start against Auburn where he couldn’t make it out of the second inning.

Florida took advantage of a free bag in the second as Cade Kurland reached base from an error by the first baseman. Colby Halter singled and Kurland tagged on Ty Evans fly out. Michael Robertson then hit an infield single to plate Kurland.Β  The Gators loaded the bases as Wyatt Langford walked but couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity.

Tennessee responded with a run of its own in the second inning off the bat of Blake Burke. The sophomore blasted his 11th home run of the season to tie the ballgame at 1-1.

Welcome to Florida’s Yard Party

Kurland struggled last weekend against Auburn recording only one hit the whole weekend. But, he didn’t show any struggle against Dollander. The true freshman blasted an opposite field home run to give the Gators a one run lead in the top of the fourth.

It was only a matter of time before Florida’s offense sparked a multi-run lead. The top of the fifth inning gave the Orange and Blue a five run lead off a pair of home runs.

Wyatt Langford reached base via walk and Jac Caglianone followed with a double. Midway through Josh Rivera’s at bat, Tennessee’s coach Tony Vitello made a call to the bullpen, grabbing Seth Halvorsen. Rivera welcomed him with a three-run home run to push the Gator lead to 5-1.

Two home runs wasn’t enough for the team that’s second on the home run leaderboard nationally. BT Riopelle responded with a home run of his own to give the Gators a 6-1 lead and Sproat went back to the mound with a five run lead.

Sproat and Dollander’s Starts

Sproat bounced back well from his outing last week against Auburn. He allowed one earned run in hisΒ  5 and 2/3 innings of work, striking out nine and walking four. He threw 106 pitches.

Dollander on the other hand didn’t display his best stuff; in four innings, he gave up three earned runs on four hits, while walking three and fanning seven.

Pitching Duo of Philip Abner and Brandon Neely

The rest of the game was quiet offensively for both sides as no one could scrape another run on the board. There were leadoff doubles by Kurland and Burke in the eighth inning, but no one at the plate brought them in.

Lefty Phillip Abner has been a huge asset to the Gator bullpen of late and he relieved Sproat and pitched well, shutting down Tennessee’s offense. Abner tied his career high in strikeouts at six in his 2.1 innings.

The Gators called in closer Brandon Neely in the ninth inning and he ran into some traffic after letting the bases get loaded. But, he got out of the jam recording three strikeouts to close the ballgame.

Florida beat Tennessee 6-1 taking game one of the three game series and the second game is set for Friday in Knoxville.Β  Florida is now 8-2 in SEC play.


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