GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Tennessee shortstop Ricky Martinez couldn’t have picked a better time to hit his first home run as a Volunteer, as his three-run blast in the top of the seventh brought the Big Orange back from a three-run deficit in an eventual 5-4 victory over Florida in Sunday’s rubber game at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium.
Jay Charleston went on to drive in what turned out to be the game-winning run later in the inning to lift the Vols past the Gators in a crucial SEC game for both teams.
After struggling in Friday’s series opener, UT’s bullpen was lights out for the second straight day. Redshirt senior Richard Jackson didn’t allow a hit in 1.1 scoreless frames before handing the ball off to sophomore Sean Hunley, who was dominant over the final three innings, giving up just one hit while striking out a pair. Jackson earned his first-career win while Hunley picked up his first-career save.
Connor Pavolony was the only player in the game to have multiple hits, finishing 2-for-3 while scoring the game-winning run.
UT starter Zach Linginfelter was extremely effective through four innings but ran into trouble in the fifth, allowing the Gators to score three runs to break up a 1-1 tie. The junior from Sevierville was pulled after 4.2 innings and gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits while striking out six.
Florida freshman pitcher Nick Pogue, making his first SEC start, was dominant in 5.1 innings of work, giving up just one run and one hit before exiting the game in the sixth.
For the third time this weekend, the Volunteers opened the scoring. Evan Russell hit a solo home run that just stayed fair down the left-field line in the top of the second inning to put UT ahead 1-0. It was Russell’s fifth homer of the season.
The Gators scratched across an unearned run in the third to tie the game without registering a hit in the inning. Jud Fabian was hit by a pitch and stole second before advancing to third on a passed ball. He came in to score on a ground out to third base by Brady McConnell to tie the game at one.
Florida struck for three runs in the bottom of the fifth to take the lead. Fabian singled to score Jacob Young before McConnell and Austin Langworthy hit back-to-back home runs to chase Linginfelter and give UF a 4-1 lead heading into the sixth inning.
The Big Orange had a chance to cut into the Florida lead in the top of the sixth, but Gators’ reliever Nolan Crisp struck out Andre Lipcius and got Alerick Soularie to fly out to center field to escape the jam unharmed.
After a solid relief inning by Richard Jackson, the Vols were able to break through offensively in the top of the seventh, scoring four runs to take a 5-4 lead. With runners on first and second, Martinez drilled a 2-1 pitch into the left-field bleachers to tie the game at four. Pavolony and Justin Ammons followed with a single and a double to put runners on second and third for Charleston, who drove in Pavolony with an RBI ground out to give UT the lead.
Hunley shut down the Gators to preserve the win, allowing just one hitter to reach base over the final three innings.
RICKY COMES UP LARGE: Trailing 4-1 with one out in the top of the seventh, Vols’ junior shortstop Ricky Martinez came up with his biggest hit of the season, a screamer over the wall in left field to tie the game at four. It was the first home run of the season for Martinez. Jay Charleston went on to drive in the eventual game-winning run later in the inning.
FEELING RIGHT AT HOME IN GAINESVILLE: With Sunday’s victory, Tennessee secured its second straight series win in Gainesville after also taking two of three games from the Gators in 2017. The Vols have now won six road games in SEC play this season after winning just three last year.
UP NEXT: The Big Orange will finish their regular-season slate with four home games next week, starting with a Tuesday midweek matchup against Tennessee Tech. First pitch will be at 6 p.m. and the game will be streamed online via SEC Network+ and the WatchESPN app. Fans can also listen live as John Wilkerson and Vince Ferrara call the action for the Vol Radio Network (FM 99.1/AM 990).