Missouri pitching can’t slow down powerful Florida offense in 8-5

Florida sophomore Christian Scott pitched 5 2/3 innings of one hit ball, and the offense provided a big enough lead to stifle the Tigers.

Two hours and 52 minutes after the original start time, No. 18 Florida junior starting pitcher Franco Aleman delivered a first pitch strike to Missouri’s leadoff hitter, senior Mark Vierling.

Despite the almost three-hour rain delay, both teams were ready to go under the lights at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium. The ballpark can hold up to 10,000 fans, but only around 500 fans watched as the host Gators defeated the underdog Tigers 8-5.

The loss sent Missouri to 11-21 on the season with a 4-9 SEC record.

Tiger starter, redshirt sophomore Seth Halvorsen pitched 4 and two-third innings, but struggled mightily. Halvorsen gave up seven runs on nine hits, headlined by a six-hit, six-run third inning.

Two weeks ago, Halvorsen diced up Texas A&M in what was clearly his best start of the season, finishing with 10 strikeouts over seven innings.

This season, the problem for Missouri pitching hasn’t been giving up a ton of hits, it's been giving up a ton of walks. Free bases have been the Achilles Heel for the Tigers’ pitching staff all year long—but Friday night, Florida hit them, and hit them hard.

UF sophomore Jud Fabian and graduate Kirby McMullen homered off Halvorsen, giving their team a bolt of electricity within the dugout. After the McMullen home run in the third, the Gators tacked on three more in that frame, giving them a 7-1 lead.

Missouri however, showed excellent resiliency and fought back immediately .

In the top half of the fourth, the first two men got on for the Tigers. Up next was slumping sophomore Luke Mann, who delivered a double off the wall in right, scoring both runners and cutting the deficit into only four.

Missouri wasn’t done. Junior Mike Coletta singled, bringing in Mann. A few batters later, Vierling hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Coletta. Just like that, it was a two-run ballgame.

During the inning, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan called on sophomore pitcher Chrisian Scott, who proceeded to retire the first 12 Tiger batters he faced. The Tigers had reclaimed some momentum, but then the right-hander completely swallowed it.

Scott finished the game for the Gators, stunting a final stat line of 5 2/3 innings with only one hit and one walk allowed. He recorded three strikeouts in a lengthy relief appearance of 83 pitches.

Missouri also used only two pitchers. Relieving Halvorsen was senior Konnor Ash. Ash recorded the final out in the fifth and then went three innings of his own, giving up one run in the eighth.

This was Ash’s longest outing of the season. The right-hander is trying to rebuild arm strength after some elbow tightness kept him out early in the season. With the lack of consistency in the Tiger bullpen this year, having a veteran arm like Ash going forward would be monumental for the squad.

"I really liked the way we had fight at the end,” Coach Steve Bieser said. “Hopefully we can build off of that. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we have to be ready to play.”

Missouri has two more games against Florida this weekend, with both matchups being pushed up because of more inclement weather in Gainesville.

First pitch for Saturday is scheduled for noon CDT. Sophomore Spencer Miles is the projected starter for the Tigers. Starting for the Gators will most likely be either junior Tommy Mace or freshman Hunter Barco.

Edited by Jack Soble | jsoble@themaneater.com

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