Gators Secure Series Against Ole Miss

It didn't start as an offensive explosion for the Gators (33-10/16-4 SEC). No. 4 Florida took advantage of Ole Miss (24-19/9-11 SEC) errors and used timely hitting to take an early lead, and while starting pitcher Brian Johnson put it in cruise control, the Gators tacked on extra runs. Florida clinched the series with the Rebels after an 8-1 win on Saturday night at McKethan Stadium.

"We've been swinging the bats really good," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "Eight of nine starters got hits. We're just playing good right now. We're seeing the ball at the plate and having quality at-bats."

The scoring started in the second inning when Johnson laced a one-out triple down the right field line. He scored on an RBI groundout by Austin Maddox. Josh Adams followed with a single and scored when Jeff Moyer tapped a ground ball in front of home plate that was thrown down the right field line by Ole Miss catcher Taylor Hightower.

The question Ole Miss defense didn't stop making mistakes then.

After Mike Zunino started the fourth inning with a double, Johnson drove a long fly out to right field. Zunino tagged and moved to third on the play, but Rebels right fielder Matt Smith short-hopped the throw into the infield, and it bounced into left field, allowing Zunino to score.

The Gators added two runs in the sixth inning, with one coming on Jeff Moyer's second home run of the season, and the other came on an RBI double for Bryson Smith that went under the glove of third baseman Preston Overbey, pushing the Gators lead to 8-0.

Moyer started at third because the Rebels started a right-hander on the mound, and he didn't disappoint, finishing 2-for-4 with a double and a home run.

"We all work hard, so when we get our chance, we're all going to come in and work hard," Moyer said. "We can trust one through nine that we're going to come in and get the job done."

After the first inning, the Gators scored multiple runs in four of the next five innings. Since coming home last Friday night, Florida has scored 35 runs in five conference games.

"We've been playing with our new things- swag," Moyer said. "We're going to be a tough team to beat down the road when we're playing with this swag and this confidence."

Johnson (7-1) went 2-for-3 with a triple and run scored at the plate, but he was even better on the mound. The sophomore tossed 6.2 shutout innings, allowing four hits and one walk. He recorded nine strikeouts to tie a career high set earlier this season on March 4 against Miami.

"It all starts on the mound," O'Sullivan said. "Brian was really good tonight. He located both sides of the plate really well."

The left-hander's control wasn't sharp in the early innings, but it got better as the game went on. Johnson was 18-for-25 with first-pitch strikes, staying ahead of opposing batters and continuing to attack the strike zone. Three of those first-pitch balls came in the first inning when his control wasn't as sharp.

"It was kind of back to the beginning of the year when I was throwing everything for strikes," Johnson said. "I had both sides of the plate working. The umpire was giving me low strikes, so you might as well keep it there."

He settled in to throw 66 of his 100 pitches for strikes. Johnson was pulled from the game after he struck out Jordan Poole with his 100th pitch of the game. He is the first Florida pitcher to throw 100 pitches in a game this season.

Tommy Toledo gave up a solo home run to Miles Hamblin, the first batter he faced, but that was all he allowed in 1.1 innings.

After walking at graduation earlier Saturday, right-hander Justin Poovey threw a scoreless ninth inning to close the game.

The series win secured Florida's fifth straight series win. It was the first series win over Ole Miss since 2008, and the first series win for the Gators at home since 2002.

The Gators go for the series sweep on Sunday at 1 p.m. Florida will send freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (5-0, 2.25) to the mound against Ole Miss junior left-hander Austin Wright (4-3, 4.36).

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