With the 13th Southeastern Conference championship clinched the day before, Florida (37-19, 21-9 SEC) failed to sweep eastern division foe Tennessee (31-22, 12-18 SEC) losing 7-5 to close out the 2014 regular season.
With nothing to play for, Florida trotted out irregular players in its starting lineup like catcher Mike Fahrman, left fielder Ryan Larson second baseman Jason Lombardozzi and third baseman Josh Tobias. Regular second baseman Casey Turgeon got the day off for the first time all season.
Tobias — who had started only one game since March 23 — made his presence felt in a big way with a tremendous home run to lead off the third inning that soared over the left-field fence. It was his second home run this season and the fifth of his UF career.
Tobias’ homer was the second of two solo shots in consecutive innings for Florida — the first was from Gushue playing from the DH spot in the lineup for the ninth time this season. Despite the two runs, the Gators still found themselves behind 4-2 after three innings.
The Gators could have added another run in the third after a Harrison Bader flyout to left field. Larson attempted to score from third base, but instead of sliding into home he attempted to step on the bag that was blocked by the left foot of Tennessee catcher Taylor Schultz. Larson was the last out of the inning.
Two innings later in the top of the fifth, the Gators would add three runs to their total, and take a 5-4 lead thanks to two RBI doubles. The first was laced into center field by shortstop Richie Martin and scored Tobias. The second was a Gushue shot down the left-field line two batters later that scored Bader as well as Martin. It was Gushue’s second and third RBIs of the game.
Tennessee would answer back with offensive firepower of its own in its half of the fifth on two RBI singles and a sacrifice fly.
From then on, Florida advanced two baserunners all the way to third base, but were unable to bring them home.
With the victory, the Volunteers clinched a berth in the SEC tournament for the first time since 2007.
Follow Richard Johnson on Twitter @RagjUF