Ole Miss edges Florida in 11 innings

Justin Shafer

Small missteps continued to gnaw at the Gators' heels Friday night. Though Florida hung with No. 11 Ole Miss through 10 innings, the Rebels prevailed in the 11th with a 4-3 victory to nab the opening contest of the SEC series. A shaky start on the hill paired with missed offensive opportunities and a defensive hiccup stuck the Gators into their fourth extra-innings loss of the season.

Prior to the first pitch, the game was presumed to be a right-handed pitchers' duel as UF freshman right-hander Jay Carmichael faced off against Ole Miss' Bobby Wahl. However, the Rebels wasted no time heating up at the plate as left fielder Tanner Mathis led off with a double to left-center field on a 1-1 count. Mathis scored after his teammates successfully sacrificed him across the base paths to give Ole Miss a one-run advantage.

The Rebels hit the board again in the fourth inning when right fielder Will Jamison was issued a one-out walk, stole second and scored off a wild pitch to up Ole Miss' lead 2-0. The Gators would also produce in the fourth with sophomore Justin Shafer setting the tone for the offense with a leadoff double down the left-field line. Shafer advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored off senior Vickash Ramjit's sacrifice fly to centerfield. Fellow senior and shortstop Cody Dent also posted an RBI sacrifice fly with bases loaded, flying out to right field to score Zack Powers. Powers previously reached base after Wahl issued him a no-out walk.

Carmichael took the mound for his last inning of work in the fifth, letting up a leadoff single, walk and sac bunt before he was pulled. The freshman issued four walks, three strikeouts and hit three batters while letting up four hits in his 75-pitch outing.

Left-hander Daniel Gibson replaced Carmichael with runners on second and third with one out. "I knew I just had to go in there and put up some zeros to give our team the chance to come back," Gibson said.

The junior faced first baseman Sikes Orvis for his first batter of the night. Orvis flew out on an 0-0 count to left field but registered the RBI to give the Rebels a 3-2 advantage. However, Gibson notched a strikeout against the next batter, designated hitter Will Allen, to bring Florida back to the plate.

The Gators trailed into the eighth inning until catcher Taylor Gushue pulled a one-out double down the right-field line. Ole Miss swapped Wahl for right-hander Tanner Bailey who let up back-to-back singles to Shafer and Powers. It was Powers' single to center field that tied the contest at 3-3.

Gibson held the Rebels until he was through one-out deep in the ninth. The junior chalked up a career-long outing of four innings complete with three strikeouts, two hits and 41 pitches before Johnny Magliozzi came in from the bullpen. "Gibby did great," Shafer said. "He kept us in the game and gave us the chance to get some runs to come back — that was big."

However, Florida and Ole Miss both failed to produce any further through the close of the ninth inning and the game was forced into extras.

The score remained frozen until the top of the 11th, when Allen led off with a double to left-center field. Ole Miss put in speedster Lance Wilson to pinch run for the designated hitter. Right fielder Will Jamison reached on his fielder's choice to Magliozzi, but Wilson scored from second off the Florida pitcher's botched throw to Powers at third.

"He makes that play nine times out of 10," O'Sullivan said of Magliozzi. "He got off the mound aggressively and the guy at second can run — he knew he had to get rid of it quick. I'm not even sure with a perfect throw he would've had him, anyways."

The unearned run would give Ole Miss a final lead of 4-3.

"Once again, the little things have been hurting us," O'Sullivan said. Florida out-hit Ole Miss finishing with a total of 10 hits compared to Ole Miss' seven. However, O'Sullivan stressed Florida's need for big at-bats in crucial situations. UF left 11 runners on base Friday night. Of the 11 innings, the Gators only posted three where no men were left on base.

Though the loss marks Florida's third consecutive drop, O'Sullivan said he's seeing improvements. He highlighted Gibson and Magliozzi's performances on the hill.

"We are playing better," O'Sullivan said, "but there's no consolation for finishing close." Game 2 against Ole Miss is set for Saturday at 1 p.m.

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