By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor
With the final four games of the regular season approaching, the No. 8 Florida Gators baseball (34-18, 19-8 SEC) is struggling to win at home, dropping three of its last four games to the Mercer Bears (one) and Vanderbilt Commodores (two of three) despite setting a near half-century-old school record last week.
The Gators apparently left all their offensive firepower in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
After scoring 13 runs in last weekend’s series finale, UF managed to only register five runs over its next four games.
A troubling trend of midweek losses due to lack of offense continued this week for the Gators with Mercer beginning the week by defeating Florida 4-2 on Tuesday. UF has lost three-straight non-conference games at home.
However, Florida’s final league home series started on a high note.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (7.1 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 8 K) shined in primetime, taking a shutout into the eighth before handing off to junior left-hander Bobby Poyner (1.2 IP, 3 K), who preserved the 1-0 score to collect his fourth save of the season. The game’s only run came in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single by junior catcher Taylor Gushue (1/2, RBI, 2 BB).
The victory gave the Gators 12-straight SEC wins, breaking a 45-year-old school record. The streak began when Florida topped South Carolina 4-3 on April 12. Since then, UF added a second victory over USC, three-straight sweeps (Georgia, Missouri, Alabama) and the series opening win against Vanderbilt.
The Gators were not able to extend their streak, however, as the Commodores picked up a 3-0 win on Friday. Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer had Florida’s lineup figured out from the get-go and did not exit the game until it was over, holding the hosts to a four-hit complete-game shutout.
There was plenty of offense in Saturday’s series finale, which also happened to be Senior Day at McKethan Stadium, but it did not come from the Gators’ dugout.
Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson, who participated in the festivities, got shelled in his start, allowing five earned runs on two hits and three walks in what would become an eight-run first inning.
UF saw its deficit balloon to 16-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth, but Florida’s effort to get back in the game with runs in its final two frames was futile at best. Vanderbilt held on for the 16-2 victory.
The Gators’ regular-season home finale is set for Tuesday night when UF will host USF. Florida ends the 2014 season on the road at Tennessee with a three-game lead on Ole Miss for the top spot in the SEC.