#1 Gators Survive North Florida 5-4

The #1 ranked Florida Gators wrapped up a tricky two-game set with the North Florida Ospreys on Wednesday night by a final tally of 5-4.  Following a surprisingly tough matchup with Ivy League opponent Dartmouth, the competition got no easier for the Gators, as they survived two closely contested matchups with the Atlantic Sun Conference team.

Highly-touted freshman Jackson Kowar (2-0) made his second start of his Florida career and allowed four hits and two earned runs in six innings. Kowar’s mid-90’s fastball and knee-buckling breaking ball were on full display Wednesday night, as the Gators star-studded recruiting class continues to pay dividends early in this season. Kowar has a 17-to-2 strikeouts to walks ratio (4-to-2 tonight) in 14 innings pitched this season. His performance wasn’t unnoticed by Florida Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

"I thought Jackson (Kowar) did very well. The only hiccup was there in the third inning. He had two outs, nobody on and walked a guy.”

The Ospreys got off to a fast start and scored in the first. This did little to deter the Gators as a Mike Rivera (who made a rare start at third base) triple brought in three runs to seize the lead, rounding off a very threatening opening period from the home team. Mark Kolozsvary, starting in Rivera’s typical role as catcher, repaid O’Sullivan trust by smashing a fastball into the left field stands in the second inning. The bats then went inactive until an unconventional seventh inning saw J.J. Schwarz record an RBI off the opposing pitcher’s throwing arm, promptly removing him from the game. Kowar’s command of his two plus pitches was all that was necessary to see the Gators win their 14th out of 15 games to start the season.

The over-matched Ospreys managed more hits than the Gators, but to no avail, as the effort from the mound was enough to see North Florida dispatched to Jacksonville with two losses in as many nights. The result does not adequately summarize the contests, as both games were in doubt until the latter innings. Although not a dominant effort offensively, there will be plenty of nights where the Gators must rely on the pitching staff and what a staff it is. O’Sullivan was quick to point out the value of such early season affairs.

“There were some pressure situations, obviously. The positive is that we needed to make some pitches there -- Brady did with some runners on, Kirby needed to come in and have a good outing there, and Shaun (Anderson) had to make some pitches there at the end with a one-run lead. Those experiences are going to help us moving forward on the mound."

 Right-hander Brady Singer entered the game in relief of his freshman compatriot in the seventh and showed off impressive stuff as well, despite getting hit hard. Being able to get quality innings from freshmen with this much ability speaks to the depth that O’Sullivan has at his disposal, freshmen that are gaining invaluable experience heading into SEC play in a few weeks. Juniors Kirby Snead and Shaun Anderson came on in a nervy eighth inning that saw the Ospreys bring the game to within one run. Anderson was able to consolidate the damage and record the final five outs of the night in uninspiring fashion, but converted nonetheless.

The Gators open a three-game series with the Harvard Crimson Friday night in Gainesville. 

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