GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The University of Alabama baseball team's bats fell silent in its 6-2 series opening loss to Florida at McKethan Stadium Friday night.
Florida (24-20, 11-11 SEC), who owns the worst earned run average in the Southeastern Conference, held the Crimson Tide to two runs on 11 singles and moved one game ahead of Alabama in the SEC standings with eight games remaining in the regular season.
Freshman right-hander Kyle Mullaney, making just his second career SEC start, stymied the Tide through seven innings before allowing three hits in the eighth and leaving the game with the bases loaded and one out.
"The bottom line is we did not score," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "We had a couple of chances, but did not get the timely hit. We missed a few plays on defense that could have held them to four runs, but then we did not get five runs. We just did not score."
Florida freshman catcher Cody Neer supplied the offense for the Gators with three hits, including a pair of home runs, and three RBI in the win. He gave the Gators a 1-0 lead with a solo home run in the second inning and snapped a 1-1 tie with a two-run home run in the fourth inning to give the Gators the lead for good at 3-1.
Alabama's (26-21, 10-12 SEC) only two runs came on sacrifice flies by freshman third baseman Jake Smith and senior left fielder Brandon Belcher.
The Crimson Tide briefly tied the game at 1-1 with run in the fourth inning on Smith's sacrifice fly. Junior first baseman Matt Bentley and senior left fielder Brandon Belcher led off the inning with infield hits and both runners moved up one base on a throwing error by UF second baseman Avery Barnes. Smith then tied the game with his fifth sacrifice fly of the season.
Florida quickly regained the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning as Chris Petrie led off with a double to left-center and scored one pitch later on Neer's second home run of the game and fifth of the season.
The Gators stretched the lead to 4-1 in the fifth inning when Jon Townsend led off the inning with a triple into the right field corner and scored on Bryson Barber's ground out.
Florida added two more runs in bottom of the sixth inning to take a 6-1 lead. Barnes opened the inning with a double and moved to third on Cole Figueroa's ground out to first baseman Matt Bentley. After Matt LaPorta was intentionally walked to set up an inning-ending double play.
UF right fielder Brian LeClerc obliged with a ground ball to second base, but Brandon May could not turn the twin-killing that would have ended the inning, allowing Barnes to score from third base and make it 5-1.
The Gators tacked on another run in the inning on a bizarre play. Townsend singled to right and LaPorta, who was trying to score from second base, fell to the ground just a few feet from third base with a re-occurring hamstring injury. UA right fielder Ryan Rhoden held the ball in the outfield, which allowed LaPorta to get up and limp home with the run to make the score 6-1.
LaPorta, who missed two games last week at Vanderbilt with a hamstring injury, left the game after the play. His status for the remainder of the series in unknown at this time.
Alabama loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning to finally knock Mullaney out of the game. May led off the inning with a base hit to center field. After Alex Avila popped up to right field, freshman Del Howell and Bentley followed with singles to load the bases.
Mullaney (3-1) allowed two runs and nine hits in 7 1/3 innings with one walk and no strikeouts.
David Hurst held the Tide offense in check, allowing a sacrifice fly by Belcher to score May from third base to cut the lead to 6-2.
UA starter Tommy Hunter (5-4) gave up six runs and 11 hits in 7 1/3 innings and picked up the loss.
Alabama and Florida will meet in game two of this weekend series Saturday, May 5 at 4:05 p.m. (EDT) in Gainesville.
*Sophomore right fielder Kent Matthes (Orlando, Fla.) did not start the series opener at Florida due to a strained oblique muscle sustained during the Mississippi Valley State game on Tuesday, May 1. Sophomore Ryan Rhoden (Tuscaloosa) took Matthes' spot in the lineup and batted cleanup for the third time in his UA career.
*Alabama freshman second baseman Brandon May (Marietta, Ga.) went 4-for-4 in Friday's loss at Florida. In two games in the month of May, the Tide rookie is 7-for-8 against Mississippi Valley State and Florida. The four hits established a career high for the freshman.
*Alabama had 11 singles in the loss at Florida. In addition to May's four hits, junior first baseman Matt Bentley (Hazel Green) added two hits and scored one of the two runs.
*Alabama intentionally walked UF first baseman Matt LaPorta three times in Friday's loss. LaPorta left the game after the sixth inning with another hamstring injury.
*Alabama lost its third straight Friday night SEC road game. The streak includes losses to Vanderbilt, Auburn and Florida.