Florida baseball falters, drops series to Auburn

By Adam Silverstein
May 14, 2013

By Andrew Olson – OGGOA Contributor

With the season is winding down, Florida Gators baseball (28-25, 13-14 SEC) is limping to the finish line rather than charging towards it the way head coach Kevin O’Sullivan had envisioned. UF dropped two of three games to the Auburn Tigers (31-20, 11-16 SEC) in its last home series of the regular season and once again fell below .500 in conference play. Florida has now come up short in six of its last seven Southeastern Conference contests, dropping back-to-back series to LSU and AU.

The Gators struggled to hit consistently all weekend, falling behind early in all three games. In Friday’s series opener, the Tigers jumped out to a 6-0 lead, notching three runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings. A four-run seventh helped UF get back in the game but ultimately did not change the outcome as AU held on for a 7-4 victory.

Junior right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford (4.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) did not have his best stuff in the series opener and Auburn took advantage. O’Sullivan yanked Crawford early, hoping his bullpen could tame the Tigers, but the move did not work.

AU busted the game open, scoring three more runs to extend its lead to 6-0. Florida fought back, but the deficit proved to be too much. Sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue (2/5, RBI) and freshmen outfielders Harrison Bader (1/4, RBI, R) and Richie Martin (1/4, RBI, BB) knocked runners home in UF’s four-run seventh, but the Tigers kept the Gators off the board in the other eight innings.

Auburn took a 4-1 lead into the ninth inning of game two, but Florida put together a four-run, two-out rally to walk off with a 5-4 win that evened the series.

Determined to avoid a repeat of Friday night, O’Sullivan sent sophomore right-hander Johnny Magliozzi to the mound for game two. Magliozzi, the Gators’ primary closer, was making only his second start of the season but is nevertheless one of UF’s most reliable hurlers. O’Sullivan said he was tired of seeing him sitting on the bench waiting for the eighth and ninth innings to get in the game. The skipper’s move paid off as Magliozzi (7.0 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, BB, 5 K) turned in a gem when the Gators desperately needed a quality start.

Tigers starter Michael O’Neal was one out from upstaging Magliozzi, however, as he held the hosts to one run through eight innings. With a man on first and two outs, senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit (1/4, R) singled to reach base and bring the tying run to the plate. Sophomore third baseman Josh Tobias (1/4, 3 RBI, R) got hold of a first-pitch fastball and launched a three-run blast to tie the game at 4-4. Bader (1/3, 2 R, BB) then stepped up to the plate and took a free pass as he walked to first base. Sophomore designated hitter Zack Powers (1/1, RBI) was next up and he answered just as UF needed him to, blooping a pinch-hit double to right field that allowed Bader to take off and eventually cross the plate to complete a thrilling 5-4 come-from-behind victory for the home team.

In the series finale, Florida trailed 4-1 but gave itself an opportunity by loading the bases in the bottom of the eighth with one out. However, Auburn reliever Terrance Dedrick worked out of the jam and held on for a two-inning save.

O’Sullivan gave freshman RHP Eric Hanhold his first start since a 0.2-inning outing against Vanderbilt on March 24th. A much-improved Hanhold (5.0 IP, 4 H, ER, BB, 2 K) did his job in a career-long outing. In the sixth, after freshman RHP Jay Carmichael (0.2 IP, H, 2 ER, K) only retired two of the four batters he faced, O’Sullivan substituted freshman southpaw Danny Young for a left-on-left matchup. Unfortunately for O’Sullivan, it proved to be the wrong call as Tigers center fielder Ryan Tella smacked a towering three-run homer and increased Auburn’s lead to 4-0.

Martin (3/5, R) and sophomore second baseman Casey Turgeon (1/3, RBI) put together back-to-back hits to put Florida on the board; the Gators even managed to load the bases but were unable to plate another run, dropping the rubber match.

For much of the second half of the season, Florida’s focus has to been get above the.500 mark to become eligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. UF is three games up in the win column and should manage at least one victory against last-place Georgia (18-31, 5-19 SEC) in the final series of the regular season. Even though they are likely to play in the postseason, the Gators are not doing themselves any favors by scuffling through the last few weeks.

If there is one positive takeaway from a disappointing weekend, it is that O’Sullivan may have finally found his second and third starters for postseason. The problem with the weekend rotation, though, has not been getting good starts here and there, it has been getting consistency from any one pitcher. If Magliozzi and Hanhold can keep UF from letting the game get away early, there is hope for Florida in the postseason.

Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press

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