Florida pitching has dominated this year, but it was timely hitting that saw the Gators pull out the 10-7 win. Florida tallied two runs in the first inning, three in the fourth, one in the fifth, and finally four in the seventh inning showing the ability to notch back to back hits and put the ball in play with runners in scoring position.
After junior starter A.J. Puk went 1-2-3 in the top half of the first inning, Aggies ace Jace Vines started Sunday due to an illness that had him wait to the end of the weekend to get to the mound.
The Gators took advantage of Vines early scoring two runs in the first. Junior Buddy Reed (3-for-5, 2 RBI, 2 Runs) had a one out single to left field to get the hitting going in the opening inning. Sophomore JJ Schwarz (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 Runs), who has been struggling in SEC play then smashed a double to left field scoring Reed from first. Pete Alonso (2-for-3, 2 Walks) would bloop one to center field getting him and Schwarz on the corners. After freshman Deacon Liput strikes out, Mike Rivera with a laser single to center field scores Schwarz. Vasquez was plunked to get the bases loaded, but freshman Nelson Maldonado would finally go down looking to end the inning.
Schwarz got the start at catcher, only his 10th start behind the plate for the season where he is usually the designated hitter. He thought his hitting on Sunday was sparked by a big hit Saturday night.
"I think all of my confidence came from the hit yesterday,” Schwarz said. “One hit like that can really fuel the fire. I was really locked in in the pregame today because I knew I was going to have a big day."
Puk would come out to start the second inning and last one pitch. Teammate and roommate Logan Shore noticed something wrong with Puk after a first pitch strike and notified Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan called time, went to the mound, and immediately pulled Puk (1.0 IP, 0 Hits, 2 SO) after it was determined he pulled a muscle in his back. Freshman Brady Singer would replace the All-American. Singer would send the Aggies packing in the 2nd striking out two and throwing out a third. The Gators wouldn’t score in the second inning.
The Aggies would strike big in the 3rd plating four runners on four hits their half of the inning. Junior Austin Homan singled to right field before Singer plunked J.B. Moss to get runners on first and second. Junior Ryan Birk would knock two in with a double to left field and took third base when shortstop Dalton Guthrie was off the mark at home plate on his throw. Junior Boomer White (3-for-5) blooped a single into right field scoring Birk. Senior Hunter Melton (3-for-5) drilled a double down the left field line putting himself on second and Birk on third. Junior Nick Banks would score the last RBI of the inning with an RBI smash back at Singer and the ball deflected to Guthrie who had to go to first for the out.
The Gators had no answer in the third and Singer would come back strong in the fourth striking out Ronnie Gideon before walking Nick Choruby. Schwarz and Guthrie would take care of Choruby on an attempted steal at second and when caught that was the second out before Jonathan India would corral the ball at third for the final out.
The Gators would follow that 1-2-3 outing on defense with a three run fourth inning which would give them a 5-4 lead. Mike Rivera walked to start the inning. Vasquez singled between the gap of the first and second baseman. Maldonado then walked to load the bases. Freshman Jonathan India scored Rivera on a single to center field, which was the end of Aggie’s starter Vines (3.0 IP, 6 H, 5 R). With sophomore Brigham Hill on the mound to replace Vines, Guthrie would hit a long sacrifice fly to right field to bring him Vasquez. Finally, the scoring ended when Buddy Reed singled up the middle and scored Maldonado.
But, the Aggies wouldn’t go away, scoring three more in the fifth to take a 7-5 lead. Freshman Jackson Kowar would take over for Singer (3.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R) to start the inning. Kowar would give up a triple to Moss before Birk would smash a line drive over the right field wall to plate both runs. Before the inning was over White would single to left and Michael Barash would bring him home with a double to left field.
After a scoreless sixth and keeping the Aggies off the board in the seventh, the Gators got one in the seventh and it could have been more. With bases loaded and no outs, Jonathan India hit a long fly ball into center field sacrificing Rivera who was on with a single. Guthrie then advanced both runners with a ground out to short, but new pitcher Ryan Hendrix was able to strike out Reed with two runners in scoring position.
It was a tough outing for the young relievers. O’Sullivan knows this game will be a very learning tool for both Singer and Kowar.
“Obviously, we had to shift gears there with A.J. (Puk),” the head man said. “If it's any consolation, his first 10 pitches of the game were dynamite. After that, the young freshmen came in, Brady (Singer) and Jackson (Kowar), and had a valuable learning experience. It's something they're going to learn from moving forward. I'm excited to get them out there in a game like today. We just kept battling and tried to stay in it.”
The Gators got their biggest inning of the night when they needed it most. With Ace relievers Kirby Snead (3-0), who got the win, and Shaun Anderson who netted the save on the mound, the Gators plated four runs after two outs and no one on base in the bottom of the seventh to bring home the final 10-7 score.
Hendrix would strike out Vasquez swinging and Maldonado was robbed of a single by a nice diving play from right fielder Nick Banks to start the half inning. Jonathan India would then walk with two outs and steal second base. Guthrie walked and then India advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Buddy Reed then tied the game with a dribbler to Hendrix who bobbles the ball and can’t get Reed out at first. India scored from third. And Guthrie advanced to third on the play. Schwarz then lines a single into right field scoring Guthrie. The Aggies brought in junior Mark Ecker for Hendrix (2.2 IP, 2 H, 4 R) and Alonso smashed a laser that hit the bottom of the right field wall for a single that scored Reed. A wild pitch then scored Schwartz for the final run of the game.
After struggling at the plate in a weekend series at Kentucky, Florida bounced back big against the Aggies. In the three games the Gators batted .360 (36-for-100), with 36 hits, 24 runs, 20 doubles, seven walks and two homers. Alonso had a stellar weekend going 8-for-12 (.667) with five RBI, four runs and two homers, while India was 5-for-9 (.556) and sophomore Jeremy Vasquez was 5-for-11 (.455).
O’Sullivan really liked what he saw from his hitters this weekend.
"We came out and swung the bats very well against (Texas A&M's) No. 1 starter (Jace Vines),” O’Sullivan said following the contest. "We laid off some really good pitches. You saw the pitchers they ran out there -- we were facing as good of arms as we'll see all year long. (Give) credit to our hitters because it wasn't easy for them today. I knew that going in. I knew that they had a rested bullpen. We just did a really nice job."
After South Carolina lost two games over the weekend, the Gators are now tied atop the SEC East with the Gamecocks at (7-2) in SEC play. They know they need to keep playing at a high level in this conference to have a chance.
"It feels really good; it ties us for first, Alonso said. “It's good to be back in a good position, and we just have to keep on rolling."
Reed said it was a tough one all weekend.
"It's nice to bounce back,” he said. “It's baseball though and I know I'm going to have those days, but my teammates picked me up. If someone is having a bad day, you still have to keep that consistency and the mindset that you are good and you are always going to be good. The three hits helped the team and we had a great series against Texas A&M. Credit them for giving us a good fight, but I'm just glad we got the win."
The Gators’ schedule is really front loaded this year, especially in conference. Next weekend they host SEC West leading Mississippi State for a three game series. O’Sullivan knows they just have to keep on truckin’.
“We've had some contributions from a lot of people up and down the lineup,” O’Sullivan said. “It was a really good team win. It was a very tough weekend. That's week three of 10 in this league. It's a credit to our players to not just accept two out of three. I'm really proud of the way they played today."
It was the first series win for the Gators over the Aggies. O’Sullivan improved to 8-1 against teams ranked number one in the polls. Florida earned its 12th come-from-behind victory of the year. Alonso picked up his team-leading 33rd RBI on his single in the seventh inning. Shaun Anderson picked up his team-leading sixth save of the season. Kirby Snead dropped his ERA to 0.93.
The Gators will host Jacksonville University (17-10) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a contest that will be streamed on SEC Network+.