Florida baseball's struggles of late have come against SEC teams and in the first games of their series. That wasn't the case on Friday against Tennessee, despite some of the Gators' best efforts: Florida got a 3-1 win on the road in Knoxville, starting a series off on the right foot for a change.
Nolan Fontana went a career-best 4-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI, and a run to pace Florida's offense, and Mike Zunino and Brian Johnson each added an RBI, but this night, like many this season, belonged to Florida's bullpen. Sophomore Jonathon Crawford started on Friday for the first time in his Gators career, and allowed one run on six hits in five innings while striking out five to earn his fourth victory of the year, but the firemen behind him shut the door on the Vols.
Steven "Paco" Rodriguez struck out four batters in two innings of work, and got out of a jam in the sixth that featured runners on second and third with no outs. Austin Maddox followed that with three strikeouts in two innings for his 10th save of the year, and he, too, got out of a second-and-third situation, his coming with one out in the eighth.
The victory was Florida's first to open an SEC series since March 16, when the Gators took down Vanderbilt in a 10-2 victory that led to a three-game sweep of the Commodores. Florida had dropped Game 1 to South Carolina, Ole Miss, and LSU in the interim.
Game 2 of Florida's series against Tennessee takes place at 3 p.m. Saturday, and will be broadcast live on FOX Sports Florida and SEC-TV.