GAINESVILLE, Fla.--- Matt den Dekker's go-ahead two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted No. 8 Florida to a 3-2 win over No. 17 Vanderbilt in front of 4.093 fans Friday night at McKethan Stadium.
The Gators improved to 19-6 overall and 5-2 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Commodores dropped to 23-5 overall and 4-3 in league action. The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Dores dating back to the Alabama finale on March 22.
With the game tied at 1-1, VU starter Sonny Gray (4-3) walked Nolan Fontana with one out in the seventh and was then relieved by southpaw Richie Goodenow in order to face the left-handed den Dekker. Den Dekker crushed the first pitch offering from Goodenow just foul to right before timing his swing properly and hit the ball out to right, his fifth round-tripper of the year, to give the Gators a 3-1 lead.
The Commodores cut the deficit to 3-2 in the eighth when Andrew Giobbi doubled with two-outs and scored on Aaron Westlake's double to left-center.
Vanderbilt did not go down quietly in the ninth as pinch-hitter Drew Fann hit a two-strike two-out single to right-center off of Florida closer Kevin Chapman. Brian Harris followed with another two-strike two-out single to right to put the tying run at second and the go-ahead run on at first. But the rally attempt ended there as Riley Reynolds struck out swinging to end the game.
Jeff Barfield (1-0) picked up the win in relief for the Gators, while Chapman notched his fifth save of the year.
Gray (4-3) was the tough-luck loser after he allowed two runs on four hits in 6.1 innings with seven strikeouts and a career high five walks.
The Commodores wasted a golden opportunity in the third inning when Brian Harris led off with a double and Riley Reynolds reached on a bunt single. With Jason Esposito up to bat, Reynolds took off on a 0-1 pitch for second and was caught in a rundown. As Reynolds was moving between bases, Harris took off for home and got caught in a rundown himself and was eventually tagged out by the third baseman. Esposito struck out and Aaron Westlake grounded out to end the inning without a run.
The Gators got on the board in the fifth when Austin Maddox knocked a two-out RBI single up the middle to tie the game at 1-1. The run snapped a 13.2 inning scoreless streak for Gray dating back to the end of the Alabama game on March 19. After two outs in two at bats in the frame, den Dekker singled to right. Preston Tucker then walked and Maddox singled home den Dekker to tie the contest.
VU had a chance to take the lead in the seventh when Joe Loftus led off with a double to left-center. Anthony Gomez sacrificed him to third on a bunt back to the pitcher Alex Panteliodis. Bryan Johns came on to pinch hit for Yastrzemski and Florida then countered with right-hander Jeff Barfield out of the bullpen, ending the night for Panteliodis. Johns lined out to shallow center for the second out and Harris grounded out to second to end the threat.
Panteliodis allowed one run on seven hits in 6.1 innings of work with six strikeouts and two walks in the no-decision.
Giobbi led the Commodores with a 3-for-3 night and two runs scored. Brian Harris added two hits to help lead VU's 11 hit night. In all Vanderbilt outhit Florida 11-6 and left nine men on base.
The Commodores and Gators will play the second game of the series tomorrow at 3 p.m. CT. Junior right-hander Taylor Hill (3-1, 3.25 ERA) will start for VU, while Florida will counter with freshman southpaw Brian Johnson (2-1, 3.42). The game will be televised on SUN Sports.