Gators sweep series with walk-off win

Ryan Larson's playing time has decreased in recent weeks, especially with the return of Harrison Bader, but it didn't look like it Sunday. The freshman outfielder was substituted into the game during the seventh inning and later made a tough catch in the outfield while adding two hits, the second one a walk-off single that completed Florida's sweep of Missouri with a 6-5 win in 10 innings.

The win was Florida's eighth straight in conference play and gave the Gators a two-game lead in the Southeastern Conference standings with nine games left to play.

Zack Powers continued the inning with a two-out single up the middle. After he stole second, Missouri elected to intentionally walk A.J. Puk. That set the stage for Larson. He lined a fastball up the middle, allowing Powers to score just ahead of the throw. The Florida players flew out of the dugout to mob Larson between first and second base.

"It was awesome, a great feeling to end it there," Ryan Larson said. "I knew it was now or never. I know Sully had the confidence in me in the end. I know I've been used mostly in defensive spots, but whatever the team needs me to do, I'll do."

When Harrison Bader returned, it eliminated most of Larson's chances to play. The Gators have used freshman Buddy Reed in left field with Braden Mattson in right field, limiting the play opportunities for Larson, who started the season as the team's left field as No. 2 hitter.

"He had a quality at-bat and stayed in the middle of the field," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "Often times when you're trying to get the winning hit, swing get too big. When the game gets like that, it has to be played under control. He was able to do that.

"When we recruited him, we loved the way he played. He's aggressive, a competitor. Those two at-bats should help him moving forward. That's a tremendous moment for a freshman like that."

Florida spent the first six innings trying to find a pitcher to stabilize the game. Starter Danny Young allowed three runs in the second inning before shuffling through Eric Hanhold, A.J. Puk and Justin Shafer during the first six innings. They combined to allow five runs and five hits while walking two.

Poyner came in and threw four shutout innings, allowing just two hits and one walk.

"He did a great job and kept us right there," O'Sullivan said. "We couldn't really get into a flow with just one pitcher (before Poyner). It felt like we'd make a couple pitches and couldn't sustain it. Bobby was the only one that went out there and commanded the ball as well as he needed to today."

The Florida offense got off to a good start with three runs in the first two innings. They scored just two runs over the next seven innings before Larson's walk-off single. Florida also hit into nine double plays in the final two games of the weekend, with four of those coming on Sunday.

Whenever the Gators put together a rally, a double play ball wiped it out.

"It was a great win for us, but at times, it was a little frustrating to watch. We just made mistakes along the way to keep them in it. Maybe that's why it felt so weird. It just felt like we were one at-bat away."

Florida has no midweek games this week because of exams and returns to action on Friday night in Tuscaloosa to begin a three-game series with second place Alabama.

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