As good as the No. 8 Florida Gators (33-16) have been this season against stout competition, they have not been able to defeat the lower tier opponents on their schedule. The No. 24 Mercer Bears (35-11) may be ranked, but it is doubtful that they will be among the teams making deep runs towards Omaha.
The Gators lost to Mercer 4-2 Tuesday night in a nonconference game that doesn’t mean anything for their league standings. Despite being the SEC leader, Florida lost to the Atlantic Sun leaders and didn’t have much offense on the night.
Florida didn’t get on the board until the sixth inning. At the time, they were down 2-0 and came within a run when shortstop Richie Martin scored on a ground out by catcher Taylor Gushue. Martin scored again in the eighth on a sacrifice fly from right fielder Zack Powers that brought UF within two runs. The Gators did have base runners in the bottom of ninth inning but could not push any more runs across and lost by double digits.
Mercer shortstop Michael Massi had a two-run home run in the seventh inning that gave the Bears some insurance runs late in the game.
Brett Morales (0-2) suffered the loss for the Gators. He came on in relief of starter A.J. Puk who threw only one inning to start the game. Morales gave up one run on one hit and two walks in 2.0 innings pitched.
The winning pitcher for Mercer was starter Brandon Baker (4-3). He lasted three innings and did not allow any runs or hits and had three strikeouts. Dimitri Kourtis picked up his third save of the season after closing out the final two innings.
Puk and third baseman John Sternagel each had two hits for the Gators.
Florida will look to get back on track starting Thursday night against the No.18 Vanderbilt Commodores. Vandy lost a home game Tuesday night to No. Louisville but was riding a seven-game winning streak, including sweeps of Georgia and Missouri, prior to the loss. The matchup is likely to determine who will come out on top in the SEC East, as Florida holds a four-game lead with two conference series left for both teams.