Tennessee headed into this weekend’s series with No. 7 Florida riding a six-game home winning streak. Fans continue to come out to Lindsey Nelson Stadium to see head coach Dave Serrano’s program as it continues on in the best season Tennessee has had in recent years.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, the Gators maintained their winning ways en route to a 3-1 victory in front of a crowd of 3,041 orange clad fans, the 12th largest in school history.
“I felt like we didn’t play a bad game,” Vol second baseman Will Maddox said. “(Zack) Godley battled like he always does and just pitched a great game. We had people on base all night, just couldn’t get the big hit.”
Florida (27-7, 8-5 Southeastern Conference), which has won only three of its last eight games coming into the weekend, was fresh off a mid-week victory over No. 1 Florida State in Tallahassee.
Tennessee (20-14, 6-7) looked to get things started off with a bang early as the Vols loaded the bases in the bottom of the first inning with two outs. Drew Steckenrider was walked by Florida’s Jonathon Crawford. Two pitches later, Davis Morgan singled up the middle and Chris Fritts was hit by a pitch. Unfortunately for Tennessee, Richard Carter hit a groundout to shortstop Nolan Fontana and the Gators escaped trouble.
The top of the second inning started off rough for UT starter Godley. Three straight singles led to a bases-loaded situation with no outs for the potent Florida offense. However, Godley calmed down and coaxed three straight outs to get the Vol defense off the field.
“Oh yeah that was huge. We know every time he goes out he’s going battle, he’s going to pitch great,” Maddox said. “He has all year for us, so we know we have a chance when he’s on the mound.”
Godley finished Friday’s game having thrown 99 pitches in seven innings for nine hits, three runs, two walks and three strikeouts.
“I thought he threw good. I thought he really did,” Serrano said. “That’s a pretty good baseball team; it’s a great offensive team in my opinion. So when you hold them to three runs, it gives us a chance to win.”
Tennessee scored their only run of the evening in the bottom of the second as Maddox singled to center field, allowing Chris Pierce to score. Pierce singled to right field and an Ethan Bennett sacrifice bunt allowed Pierce to move to second. Pierce stole third base before Maddox’s single.
The Florida offense took control in the top of the fourth as designated hitter Brian Johnson singled to right field, allowing Nolan Fontana to tie the game. The next inning two RBI-doubles by Mike Zunino and Fontana gave the Gators their two run advantaged and proved to be all Florida would need as the Vols finished the game having left 12 runners on base.
The loss marks the first home series opener Tennessee has lost this year and only the third series opener this season with losses at Georgia and against Houston in March.
The Big Orange looks to snap its four-game losing streak when it faces Florida for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon at 3.
"We’ll show up tomorrow just like whether we won tonight’s game or lost. We’ll show up and we’ll have to put our best foot forward,” Serrano said. “We’ve owned the first game in series and haven’t won the next two. Maybe we could reverse that and win the next two.”