Larson lifts Gators to series win

Florida was struggling to drive in runners all weekend, but that changed with one swing in the sixth inning.

With the game tied at four, the Gators (35-13, 15-9 SEC)) loaded the bases with no outs before nine-hole hitter Ryan Larson drove in three runs with a double in the left-center field gap. The hit gave Florida a 7-4 lead it would hold to earn the series win.

“It was a good weekend for us,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said on the postgame radio show. “We fought through a lot of adversity. We probably didn’t play our best baseball this weekend, but we beat an SEC team on the road in two of three. I’d take that every weekend.”

The Florida offense has struggled recently, scoring more than three runs in just two of the last six games coming into Sunday. That streak started after the Gators were one of the hottest teams in the country in weeks before. O’Sullivan said it’s a funk that his team is in, but the seven-run Sunday could be a sign of a team breaking out of its slump.

The Gators couldn’t put any runs on the board after taking the three-run lead on Sunday, but O’Sullivan still thinks his team is improving offensively.

“I thought we hit the ball hard. It’s an improvement. We’ve been going through a funk the last couple games, last 5-6 games. We were better today. I don’t think the hit total (six) tells the whole story.”

On the mound, freshman Alex Faedo got the start and only lasted two innings. After walking back-to-back hitters in the first inning, the right-hander served up a three-run homer to Daniel Nichols to give Georgia a 3-2 lead after the first inning. He got into trouble in the third inning before recording an out, and O’Sullivan elected to go to his rested bullpen instead of letting the freshman stay in and potentially making things worse.

“One pitch by Alex, he left it over the plate for a three-run homer,” O’Sullivan said. “He makes one pitch there, it’s probably a different outing for him. It’s a young mistake, and he’ll learn from it. I’ve got total confidence in him.”

Kirby Snead, Taylor Lewis and Danny Young allowed just four hits and two walks over seven scoreless innings to close the game.

“Part of our success in the pen has been being able to stretch out Taylor Lewis instead of holding him,” O’Sullivan said after Lewis went 2.2 innings. “If we score runs on Sundays, we’ve got a lot of depth and should be OK.”

The Gators now head into their final midweek game of the season on Tuesday when they host USF at 7 p.m. The Bulls had the No. 29 RPI at the end of Sunday’s action, so it gives Florida another chance to boost its NCAA Tournament resume and potentially get one of the eight national seeds.

“It’s going to be a big game for us, certainly a resume-type game,” O’Sullivan said. “If we want to stay in the hunt for super regionals, Tuesday is a big night for us. South Florida’s RPI is in the 20s, and it’s an SEC Network game. We’ll be ready to play on Tuesday.”

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