GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Tennessee shortstop A.J. Simcox stabbed the line drive on one hop, and for an instant, thought he had a chance to keep the Vols’ hopes alive in extra innings.
But Simcox’s throw home with the bases loaded came up just a half-second late, allowing Florida to celebrate a 3-2, 10-inning victory against the Vols on Saturday night at McKethan Stadium.
Simcox had tied the score at 2 in the top of the ninth with an RBI single. But his diving snag of a one-hop line drive from Florida designated hitter Zack Powers wasn’t enough to help Tennessee avoid its sixth straight loss.
“After a game like that, we’re devastated with another loss, but how can you fault our guys,” Tennessee coach Dave Serrano said. “We fought back ... I hate losing, but I could go back to the hotel and feel a little bit better that we took a step forward tonight.”
The loss dropped Tennessee (17-24, 5-15 SEC) to 1-4 in extra innings this season. Trevor Bettencourt (2-3) took the loss in relief for the Vols.
Florida’s Casey Turgeon led off the 10th against Bettencourt with a single, then moved to third on a double by Taylor Gushue. Jordan Shafer was intentionally walked to load the bases, which sent Powers to the plate. Turgeon got a good enough jump off third base to score ahead of Simcox’ throw.
“I thought we had the guy out at home,” Simcox said. “I dove, caught it, bobbled it a little bit but tried to make up for it. He just beat it. I thought we had him for sure.”
For Tennessee, it was another night of missed chances. After leaving 11 runners on base on Friday, Tennessee left 13 more batters on base Saturday night. The Vols left the bases loaded in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings.
Tennessee got a strong start from junior right-hander Nick Williams, who allowed just two runs on seven hits through 6 2/3 innings. But the Vols failed to capitalize on early opportunities at the plate.
With runners on second and third and none out in the first, Tennessee’s next three batters struck out.
“Some guys came up in some key situations and we weren’t able to take advantage of it,” Serrano said.
Down 2-0, Tennessee finally broke through in the eighth, cutting Florida’s lead to 2-1 on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Scott Price. Then, with one out in the ninth, Simcox tied the score at 2 with a line-drive RBI single off Florida closer Johnny Magliozzi.
“We’ve just been struggling there in a couple of situations, lately,” Simcox said. “2-1, it’s a very winnable ballgame for us. We gotta tie it up right there and I’m just trying not to let my teammates down.”
After Simcox’s hit, Price belted a single to right to load the bases. But the Vols failed to get the go-ahead run home. Cleanup batter Christin Stewart and pinch-hitter Vance Vizcaino both struck out, leaving the bases loaded.
Tennessee will look to avoid the sweep, sending ace right-hander Zack Godley to the mound against Florida sophomore lefty Bobby Poyner. The Gators (25-19, 12-8 SEC) have won three straight and 11 of their last 12 games.
Kevin Brockway is a freelance contributor.