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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – No. 8/11 Tennessee fell 6-1 in the series opener against No. 2/3 Florida on Thursday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.
Five combined runs by the Gators in the fourth and fifth innings broke open a 1-1 game and proved to be the difference as UF snapped a five-game losing streak in the series.
Sophomore slugger Blake Burke provided the lone run for the Big Orange with a solo home run to tie the game at one in the second inning, his 11th long ball of the season. Burke also doubled later in the game and was one of just two UT hitters with multiple hits on the night along with Christian Scott, who went 2-for-3 with a pair of infield singles.
Chase Dollander pitched well through four innings before running into trouble in the fifth, issuing a leadoff walk, followed by a double before being lifted from the game. The next two Gators’ batters homered to put them ahead 6-1, which would prove to be the final score as neither side was able to plate a run over the final four innings.
Dollander finished the night with seven strikeouts but allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks to take the loss and fall to 4-3 on the year.
Florida starter Brandon Sproat went 5.2 innings to pick up the win and improve to 5-1. The junior right hander gave up one run on four hits and four walks but struck out nine in the outing.
A major story of the game was Tennessee’s inability to come up with clutch hits when it had the chance, going 2-for-23 on the night with runners on base and 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
The biggest missed opportunity came in the bottom of the sixth. Following two quick outs, the Vols loaded the bases on a walk, a hit batter and an infield single, but a strikeout by Gators’ reliever Philip Abner ended the threat and kept the deficit at five.
Kirby Connell and freshman AJ Russell were bright spots out of the bullpen for the Vols, combining for four strikeouts in two scoreless innings of relief.
Shortstop Josh Rivera drove in three of Florida’s six runs with a three-run homer in the Gators’ four-run fifth inning. Jac Caglianone and Cade Kurland led UF with two hits apiece and combined to score three runs.
UP NEXT: Tennessee (21-9, 4-6 SEC) will look to bounce back and even the series on Saturday night. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.