What we learned: South Carolina series

The Gators completed a 4-0 week with a sweep of South Carolina, pushing their Southeastern Conference record to 9-6 at the midway point.


SCHWARZ’S BIG WEEK: It was a historic week for the Florida freshman. J.J. Schwarz hit seven home runs in a four-game week for the Gators, putting him at 12 home runs on the year. Kevin O’Sullivan said on Sunday that the coaches had closed-door conversations before the season about Schwarz potentially being one of the best freshman hitters to play at Florida since this staff came to Gainesville before the 2008 season.

He’s proving that to be true. Schwarz currently leads the team with 12 home runs and 45 RBI. Those numbers have come while hitting sixth or seventh through most of the year.

OFFENSE IS BACK: The Gators scored 60 runs on 66 hits this week. That came after scoring just four runs on nine hits in the final two games of a series loss at Missouri. This is a week Florida needed. The Gators were able to forget the Missouri losses and move on quickly, building momentum for what looks like a tough week with games at Florida State and Mississippi State.

The difference this year is the 7-9 spots. When Kevin O’Sullivan’s teams have been good offensively in past seasons, it’s mostly because the first five or six hitters in the order. This year, there’s no easy out in the lineup. On Sunday, seven of the nine hitters came had averages over .300. The only two that didn’t were freshman catcher Mike Rivera (.292) and cleanup hitter Pete Alonso, who returned from a broken foot one week ago.

A NEW STARTER: The pitching star of the weekend was freshman Alex Faedo. The right-hander was dominant for 5.2 innings, allowing just two hits on the day. Sunday’s outing felt like a tryout for the weekend rotation. The Gators had a lot of arms still fresh in the bullpen, so they could’ve been fine if he was only able to go a few innings. Instead, he showed flashes of a freshman that can be special.

The Florida coaches always thought he was their next star on the mound. He has been good throughout the year, mostly in midweek outings, but Sunday was his first extended outing in Southeastern Conference play. He’ll likely get another chance next weekend at Mississippi State.

DEFENSE: This part of the game goes under the radar at times because Florida has been so good at it this year. The Gators lead the SEC with a .985 fielding percentage and haven’t made an error in their last 61.2 (CHECK THIS) innings on defense. They make the routine plays, but with plus defenders at every infield position except first base, they have the range to steal singles that would normally get through the infield. Buddy Reed covers a lot of ground in center field, and Harrison Bader could handle center field if it was needed.


INCONSISTENCY ON THE MOUND: When you play as well as Florida did last week, you have to nitpick a little bit. Florida ace Logan Shore lasted just six innings and gave up eight hits and three runs. This pitching staff needs Shore to get back to 2014 form.

The coaches have been waiting for Dane Dunning and A.J. Puk to show they can consistently go deep into games on the mound, but since it hasn’t happened, the plan on Saturday was to pitch them in the same game and see how long they could go. It actually worked well, and it could be a weapon going forward since the two pitchers offer different looks.

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