5. Bader's triple against the Seminoles: In his second game back from a 19-game suspension to start the year, Harrison Bader announced his return in a big way. Florida and Florida State were tied at one in the sixth inning. Richie Martin led off with a double and was bunted to third base.
The Seminoles went to ace reliever Bryant Holtmann. Bader didn't give him time to get comfortable, lining his first pitch off the right field wall for an RBI triple, giving Florida a 2-1 lead. Two pitches later, catcher Taylor Gushue brought Bader in with a sacrifice fly.
The sixth inning pushed Florida to its first of three wins over Florida State. Bader's swing was the most important one of the game, but it was about more than that. The sophomore center fielder was Florida's best player throughout the offseason scrimmages, and his return to the lineup came at the perfect time, setting the tone for conference play after returning for the third game against Arkansas. He ended SEC play with a .303 batting average.
4. Rhodes dominates Missouri: Aaron Rhodes was dominant out of the Florida bullpen for the first half of the year, earning a spot in the weekend rotation. His third start ended up being the best from any Florida starter this season. Rhodes threw a complete game, allowing one hit, no runs, two walks and striking out six hitters on 102 pitches. It was Florida's seventh SEC win in a row at the time.
Rhodes looked like the answer to Florida's struggles to find a second starting pitcher, but he made just one more start during the following weekend against Alabama before dealing with arm soreness. He hasn't returned but is expected to be back on the mound during NCAA Regionals.
His start against Missouri showed what he is capable of. The Tigers' offense isn't close to one of the best in the country, but Rhodes proved he can be a capable second or third starter when healthy. It could be the boost Florida needs in the postseason.
3. Extra innings win in Columbia: Florida dropped the series opener at South Carolina and looked like it was set to lose the second game and the series. The Gators trailed 3-0 after seven innings but scored two in the eighth inning and one in the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings.
Florida scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly in the 13th inning and had an easy bottom half of the inning to clinch the game. With all of the offensive heroics, left-hander A.J. Puk was the star out of the bullpen. The freshman threw 3.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen in one of the toughest environments in the country, striking out three hitters and allowing just two base runners.
This was Florida's first win in what ended up being a 12-game conference winning streak. It jumpstarted the Gators for the stretch run of conference play and played a key role in their SEC title.
2. Shore enters the rotation: In terms of its long-term impact on the entire season, this has a strong argument for number one. February 27 changed the course of the entire year. It gave the Gators what they didn't have last season -- a dominant ace that could go toe-to-toe with any opponent's ace on Friday nights in the SEC.
It came in a 2-1 loss to Florida Gulf Coast, but February 27 was the first time Logan Shore took the ball as the ace of the pitching staff. He allowed two unearned runs while striking out seven hitters over six innings. It ended in a loss, as Florida dropped three of four games that weekend to fall to 6-6 on the season, but it was a preview of what was to come.
Postseason awards will be announced next week, but Shore has a strong argument to be named SEC Freshman of the Year. He outdueled Vanderbilt's Tyler Beede, Arkansas' Jalen Beeks and Alabama's Spencer Turnbull, giving Florida a trusted arm for big games that will go a long way in the NCAA Tournament.
1. Shafer's walk-off homer: The top moment of the season came on a swing from a player whose biggest impact has come on the mound during most of the year. In some strange way, that sums up how bizarre and unexpected this season has been.
The first game of a Saturday doubleheader against LSU seemed destined for extra innings. The Tigers had ace Aaron Nola, a first round pick in next month's draft, on the mound and cruising. With two strikes and two outs in a 1-1 game during the bottom of the ninth inning, Justin Shafer smoked a fastball into the left field bleachers to end the game on a walk-off home run -- his first and only home run of the season.
Shafer is hitting .207 on the season and struggled early in the season, making the one swing even more unlikely. Combine it with Nola's dominance -- he's the favorite to be named SEC Pitcher of the Year next week -- and you have a momentum changing moment for the Gators. Florida used that momentum to win the next two games, finishing off a three-game sweep over the Tigers.