Kan Li / Scout

Gator bats awaken to take series over Commodores

Behind 13 hits and four different innings with crooked numbers on the scoreboard, the No. 1 Florida (43-9, 18-8 SEC) Gators were able to ward off an unusual performance from starter Alex Faedo enough for Faedo to give up six earned runs in six innings and still come away with the win. The Gators clinched the weekend series over Vanderbilt (37-15, 15-12 SEC) two games to one with the 10-6 victory.

Faedo would blow through the first two innings allowing just one base runner. In the meantime, freshman Deacon Liput (2-for-4)started the Gator bats off in a big way in the first inning with a two-out, three-run home run scoring fellow freshman Jonathan India (2-for-5) and sophomore J.J. Schwarz (2-for-5) who were on base with singles.  It was Liput’s third dinger of the season.

Inning three would be a different one for Faedo. The Commodores had batted around the order and now were really honing in on what Faedo was feeding them at the plate. After four straight hits that ended with a three run home run by Bryan Reynolds, the Commodores took a 4-3 lead.

Usually this is where Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan comes calling for his bullpen and brings in another arm. But Faedo, who is now 10-1 on the season, has been through some tough times and the Florida Skipper stuck with him and he was able to get the last two outs of the inning after the home run.

Florida would answer quickly in the bottom of the third inning with another three run stanza. Sophomore Dalton Guthrie (3-for-5) beat out a chopper to short to get the inning started. He would move on to second base with a wild pitch. Schwarz would single to right field scoring Guthrie. Schwarz would turn on the motor on a shot to the gap in right center for junior Buddy Reed who netted a double on the play. Vandy starter Patrick Raby was pulled after Reed’s junior and lefty John Kilichowski who proceeds to walk Liput and then throw a wild pitch advancing both runners into scoring position. Freshman Nelson Maldonado would ground to short, but on the play Reed would score for the final run of the inning.

Faedo got in more trouble in the top of the fourth. With a new 6-4 lead, Faedo gave up back-to-back doubles and then a two RBI single by Connor Kaiser. Faedo would settle down when Kaiser was caught stealing on a damn good throw from catcher Mike Rivera to short stop Dalton Guthrie. Settling down again he was able to strike out the next batter and get the third out on a pop fly in foul territory.

After giving up the six earned runs through four innings, Faedo finished the fifth and sixth without giving up anything. He was replaced by Dane Dunning in the seventh after he finished the sixth throwing 96 pitches. Dunning and closer Shaun Anderson would finish off the Commodores without giving up another run.

"I think the fifth and sixth innings from Alex (Faedo) were important for us,” O’Sullivan said. “Credit Vanderbilt's hitters; they did a good job when he made mistakes. He lengthened the game for us, and we didn't have to go to Dane (Dunning) in the fourth inning. Dane bounced back today after yesterday. The ball had action; it was down, and it sunk. When he had to face one of the better hitters in (Bryan) Reynolds, he was spot on."
After the tie in the fourth, the Gators came back with two in the fifth.  Liput and Maldonado both singled to start the inning and then both stole bases to have runners in scoring position with no outs. New pitcher Matt Ruppenthal would load the bases with a walk of Rivera. Then Liput would score when Jeremy Vasquez was hit by pitch. Ryan Larson would send a long fly ball to right field scoring Maldonado and that would be the last of the scoring for the inning.

With the 8-6 lead, both teams would go scoreless in the sixth and seventh innings before the Gators would strike again in the eighth for another couple of runs. Four straight singles by Vasquez, Larson, Guthrie, and India netted the two runs and the final score of 10-6.

After scoring just four runs and hitting .148 in the previous two games on the weekend, the Gators put up a 10 spot and hot .351 on Sunday.  The Gators played the last two games without leading hitter Pete Alonso and O’Sullivan said his guys probably learned from the experience. Eight of Florida’s starters registered RBI’s on the day. The 10 runs were the most Vanderbilt has given up all season.

"I knew today wasn't going to be easy,” he said shortly after the game. “(Patrick) Raby has been having a good year and (Vanderbilt) their top three relievers were ready to go. I told the team at the end that it shows you we can score runs without having Peter (Alonso) in the lineup. It's a learning experience for them to know that we can do that, because we haven't had him out of the lineup the whole year."

With the win, the Gators (18-8) are in sole possession of first place in the SEC by just half a game over Texas A&M (18-9) and Mississippi State (18-9) who they swept earlier in the year. In the East, Florida is a game ahead of South Carolina (17-9). The Gators and Gamecocks split their series last week and came up a game short with weather issues on the Sunday matchup.



Florida begins a three-game series at LSU on Thursday night and the game will be carried on ESPNU and streamed through the ESPN app.

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