Late Rally Lifts UCF Past the Gators

The momentum Florida (24-6) built off after taking the lead from Jeff Moyer's RBI single was erased with one swing of the bat. One out away from securing a victory over UCF (20-9), the Knights got a two-run double from Darnell Sweeney to take the lead and secured a 4-3 win over No. 4 Florida.

"Midweek games in general, if you only score three runs, it's going to be a dogfight to the end," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "They got the big hit when they needed it right there at the end. It's a frustrating loss, but we're going to have to move beyond it after tonight."

The inning was made more difficult when Florida left-handed pitcher Nick Maronde walked Beau Taylor to start the inning. O'Sullivan preaches for his pitchers not to walk hitters, but it was made worse in that it was a left-on-left matchup.

O'Sullivan quickly came to the mound after the walk and brought in Anthony DeSclafani (4-1). He recorded two strikeouts but gave up a bloop single to Ryan Breen before Sweeney delivered the knockout blow over the head of center fielder Tyler Thompson.

The Gators struck out twice in the ninth inning and didn't get a base runner.

"(DeSclafani) has been nails for us all year long," O'Sullivan said. "He has made pitches all year, and that happens. If we get in the same situation Friday night, he's getting the ball."

The blown lead ended a chance for Jeff Moyer to be the hero. His pinch-hit, two-out single in the eighth inning scored Paul Wilson, who pinch ran for Austin Maddox after he reached on an error to start the inning.

The hit moved Moyer to 5-for-14 as a pinch hitter this season, and it's a role he has embraced.

"It's something you have to get used to," Moyer said. "You have to know you're going to come off the bench in key situations where you're going to need a big hit like that. It's all about getting your mind right. You have to have the mindset before going to the plate that these are the moments we live for in playing for Florida."

The Gators got on the board in the first inning with some help for UCF starting pitcher Chase Bradford. After sitting down the first two batters of the game, Bradford hit Preston Tucker with a pitch and walked Mike Zunino and Brian Johnson to load the bases.

Austin Maddox followed with a single to center field, giving the Gators an early 2-0 lead. It has been a frustrating early season for Maddox, but his bat has shown signs of life in recent games.

"I was scuffling a little bit early, but I just went to work and tried to relax up there and have some fun," Maddox said. "Tonight it worked out for me."

The Gators also lost shortstop Nolan Fontana during the seventh inning. Sweeney hit a bloop single into short left-center field that sent Fontana racing backwards. He jumped but fell backwards and rolled over while trying to make the play.

He was on the ground in pain after the play but got to his feet on his own power. He walked off the field without any help, however players said he wasn't in the locker room after the game.

O'Sullivan hadn't talked to the trainer when he spoke to the media after the game, but he said that Fontana was responsive when he came off the field.

The Gators will now start an eight-game road trip this weekend at Mississippi State. First pitch Friday night is set for 7:30 p.m.

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