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Friday, October 15, 2021

Gators head to Knoxville in search of first SEC road win

After sweeping a pair of midweek home non-conference games, No. 12 Florida will bus over 500 miles north for a three-game series against No. 6 Tennessee

Florida will hit the road for a three-game weekend series in Knoxville as it takes on No. 6 Tennessee. Photo from UF-Jacksonville March 13.
Florida will hit the road for a three-game weekend series in Knoxville as it takes on No. 6 Tennessee. Photo from UF-Jacksonville March 13.

The Gators held off Stetson Tuesday before first baseman Nathan Hickey carried Florida to its 20th victory Wednesday against Florida A&M in mercy-rule fashion. 

Florida will hit the road for a three-game weekend series in Knoxville as it takes on No. 6 Tennessee. 

“This is a great opportunity for us,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “The next step this team needs to take it is to play more consistently on the road.”

The Volunteers boast a 17-2 home record, while the Gators are 1-4 on the road. 

Florida’s lone away win came Feb. 23 in Jacksonville when it defeated UNF 9-6. 

Nearly a month later, Florida State dominated the Gators in Tallahassee before South Carolina swept Florida in Columbia.

O’Sullivan refuses to buy the narrative that Florida struggled on the road this early in the season. 

“I don’t think the sample size is big enough right now to change what we’ve always done,” he said.

Wednesday’s contest marked Florida’s first game without a strikeout this year; the Gators strike out 8.3 times per game. Center fielder Jud Fabian ranks No. 2 in the nation with 46 strikeouts.

Although they shut out Florida A&M, the Gators allowed 10 walks in only seven innings. 

“We’re just not attacking the strike zone with two outs,” O’Sullivan said. “They(The pitchers) understand it, they just got to go out there and close out innings.”

Florida right-hander Tommy Mace will make his seventh start this weekend, according to O’Sullivan. The junior Tampa native is 4-0 this season with a 2.54 ERA and a team-low 0.95 WHIP. In his most recent outing, Mace earned his first save after he struck out seven Ole Miss batters across five scoreless innings. 

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Sullivan said junior right-hander Franco Aleman will be ready to take the hill this weekend after he threw just 11 pitches Tuesday. O’Sullivan rested freshman southpaw Hunter Barco and junior right-hander Jack Leftwich this week ahead of the series.

Offensively, the teams are evenly matched. Florida hits .285 and scores 7.1 runs per game, while the Vols bat .271 and average 7.2 runs. Tennessee senior Liam Spence leads the SEC with a .404 batting average and enters the weekend on an 11-game hit streak.

Hickey’s .369 batting average ranks No. 4 in the conference as the freshman carries a six-game hit streak into the weekend.

The series opener is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday and will air on SEC Network+.

Contact Griffin Foll at gfoll@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @GriffinFoll



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Griffin Foll

Griffin Foll is a sophomore at UF studying journalism sports and media. He is one of The Alligator's women’s basketball beat writers. Griffin is also a UF softball beat reporter for ChompTalk.com and contributes weekly articles for ESPN Gainesville.


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