Kan Li / Scout

Faedo, Gator bats smack around Bulldogs

No. 1 Florida run-ruled No. 3 Mississippi State Friday evening to advance to the semi-finals of the 2016 SEC Baseball Tournament. Sophomore righty Alex Faedo pitched the complete 7-inning game and got help from sophomore J.J. Schwarz (4 hits) and the rest of the Gator bats to finish off the Bulldogs. Florida will play LSU for the fifth time in two weeks Saturday at approximately 4:30 p.m. to play for entrance into the Championship Game.

The Gators scored four runs in the second inning and four runs in the sixth for an offensive outburst we haven’t seen for nearly all of the SEC season. The Gators are 36-0 this year when scoring at least five runs.

Schwarz got his day started early, doubling in the first inning and scoring junior Buddy Reed in the process who led off the inning with a walk.

Faedo was hit hard in inning one with four line drives to the outfield,  back-to-back doubles by Nathaniel Lowe and Gavin Collins resulted in Lowe crossing home plate to tie the score after one inning.

While Faedo would battle the Bulldogs for the next three innings and leave them scoreless, the Gators would heat things up in a big way in the second. Batting around the order in the inning notching six hits and the four runs, freshman outfielder Nelson Maldonado, Reed, sophomore Dalton Guthrie, and Schwarz all added RBI’s.

After a quiet third inning Schwarz would add another RBI in the fourth when he singled in Maldonado who opened the inning with a walk.  

Freshman Daniel Reyes would get into the fun with a single to center in the fourth that scored freshman Deacon Liput who reached on a throwing error by Bulldog shortstop Ryan Gridley and was able to take second on the miscue.

With a 6-1 lead, Faedo would get in a little jam in the fifth inning. After hitting leadoff batter Jake Mangum, Jack Kruger would double moving Mangum to third. Mangum would score one batter later when Lowe would sacrifice him home. Collins would then strike out and Jacob Robson would ground out to end the inning with not too much damage and the score 6-2.

Florida added four more in the sixth inning sending eight batters to the plate. Schwarz would add another RBI with a triple to right-center field that scored Reed who led off the inning with a walk. After sophomore Mike Rivera struck out, India would walk to put runners on the corners. Schwarz would score with Liput at bat when catcher Elih Marrero made an attempt to get him leading off of third and sent the ball into left field instead. India moved to second on the error. Liput would walk next and a wild pitch would advance him and India into scoring position. Reyes would then slap his third double in two games scoring both India and Liput on the well hit ball in the gap in left-center. Vasquez would then ground out, but the damage was done and four runs crossed the plate in the stanza.

With an 11-2 lead, Faedo shut down the Bulldogs in the sixth and seventh, while the gators added one in the top of the seventh when freshman Blake Reese pinch hit for Guthrie and doubled into left-center scoring Maldonado who led off the inning with a walk. The 12-2 score was enough to conclude the game after seven innings with the Tournament 10-Run Rule.

Faedo’s performance is just what the doctor ordered for Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan who has had to do some maneuvering with his pitching staff because of an illness to starter Logan Shore and because of the 14 inning affair with LSU on Wednesday night.

“First it starts on the mound,” O’Sullivan said of the big game. “Alex was really good tonight, pitched a seven inning complete game and saved our bullpen for tomorrow.

Schwarz was pretty spectacular at the plate. After a freshman campaign that created maybe too many expectations for Schwarz as a sophomore, he has recently started to come alive with the bat in his hand. Schwarz finished 4-for-5 with 4 RBI and scored a run on the night.

“J.J. (Schwarz) had a really, really good night,” O’Sullivan said. “It was a fun night altogether. Guys were aggressive and they had some really good at bats with runners in scoring position. Seven of the nine starters got hits. We had some guys come off the bench. We had Blake Reese get a hit, a guy who’s been a really good teammate. All in all it was a really fun night for us. (We are) looking forward to staying around one more day and see what happens.”

O’Sullivan has been jockeying with the lineup after a few weeks where the scoring has dipped. It hasn’t helped that leading hitter Peter Alonso has been out of the lineup, but O’Sullivan can live on excuses and expect to win. His moves Friday night seemed to work and included a recent move of Reed as the leadoff guy (scored three times), getting Reyes powerful bat in the lineup,

“I think this time of year, any time your offense can put together a game like that it’s important because you just want to feel good about yourself going into the Regional,” O’Sullivan said. “We made some changes tonight, like JJ playing first base, some things we talked about last night. We do anticipate having Pete back next week, but is he going to be able to play defense and hit? Just hit? It was just an idea to see what it looks like. JJ’s done it in inter-squad games all year, just no live games. He’s a good baseball player and he’s got an idea of what he’s doing over there.

“Danny Reyes has had two big games for us and I think that’s been a spark. I think guys are excited for him. He’s a good teammate and pulls together guys and when you do that, when you get your opportunity and have some success, the guys kind of rally around him.

 “Last year we had Harrison Bader, we moved him I think in the SEC Tournament and the offense took off. I think Buddy likes hitting in the leadoff spot now. It seems like he’s got a little pep in his step. We’re hitting Dalton second and that’s probably the best thing for him. Now he’s got a chance to move the ball a little bit more, do some hit and runs with him, some drag and push, and that’s really his strength as a hitter. It just looks pretty good right now so we’ll see.”

Everything from here on in the tournament is single elimination. Florida will play LSU Saturday at approximately 4:30 p.m. for the right to advance to the Championship Game on Sunday. The game Saturday will be televised on the SEC Network.

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