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May 12, 2013

Baseball: Florida drops weekend series to Auburn



Florida's dancing shoes don't fit so well after a three-day sputter against Auburn.

Sunday, the Gators wasted the best outing of freshman right-hander Eric Hanhold's career. At one point, Hanhold retired the first eight batters he faced in 21 pitches. He worked calmly through five innings, his longest start, and stretched one run over 71 pitches.

Auburn didn't win this weekend's series and damper Florida's postseason chances because of Hanhold. The Tigers did so because of a shoddy four innings of bullpen work and an offense that couldn't find its ground for the third game in a row. The Gators trailed the Tigers entering the seventh inning of every game of their three-game series, including Sunday's 4-1 loss.

"We just didn't hit well at all this weekend," freshman center fielder Richie Martin said. "Pitchers threw pretty well, but we just couldn't get the bats going."

Saturday night was the lone exception, albeit coming in the ninth inning. Florida entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-1 before late-game desperation took over. Josh Tobias hit a three-run homer to left before Zack Powers sealed the deal with an RBI double to right. It overshadowed a night in which the Gators gave up two home runs, part of six allowed on the weekend.

In Friday night's game, Florida found a glimmer of hope in a four-run seventh inning but was generally never invited to the offensive party in a 7-4 loss. Sunday, Florida (28-25, 13-14 Southeastern Conference) stranded nine runners and left the bases loaded after getting three on with one out in the eighth inning.

The series loss brings the Gators below .500 in SEC play and makes their final regular season series on the road against the Georgia Bulldogs all the more important. Florida will almost certainly need to win the series to avoid having to play for postseason life in the SEC Tournament. UGA is in last place in the SEC East, but Auburn (31-20, 11-16 SEC) was in last place in the SEC West entering the weekend.

UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan held the Gators in the dugout for an extensive conversation after the game.

"We've gotta put it behind us and have a good practice tomorrow," O'Sullivan said when asked what he told his team.

WHO'S HOT

Freshman CF Richie Martin: Now on a six-game hitting streak, Martin was 5 for 12 on the weekend with one RBI and one walk.

Freshman EHP Eric Hanhold: The Gators are desperate to find regular starting candidates as a possible postseason opportunity nears. Hanhold kept his name in the hat, allowing four hits over five innings and striking out two in a start that lowered hos ERA by nearly a full run.

WHO'S NOT

Seniors: In what was almost certainly their final games played at McKethan Stadium, Cody Dent and Vickash Ramjit combined to go 1 for 19 with five strikeouts against Auburn.

The Bullpen: In Florida's two losses this weekend, the bullpen combined to give up six earned runs.


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