Kowar struck out 10, allowed two hits, one walk, and gave up just one earned run in 84 pitches in his 2017 debut Sunday as the Gator bats tallied 12 hits and five extra base hits to lead the Gators in a sweep of the first series of the season in front of 4,408 fans at McKethan Stadium on the University of Florida campus.
Kowar was exciting from the get go opening up the first inning by striking out the side, and doing so in just 13 pitches.
Meanwhile the Gator bats got started quickly as the Gators saw their first base runners in the first inning of any of the three games so far this season.
Sophomore Dalton Guthrie got things started at the plate when he doubled to right center field. It was the third extra-base hit in the last five batters dating back to Saturday’s game. Sophomores Deacon Liput and Jonathan India would both fly out to the outfield, but advance Guthrie home for a 1-0 lead.
Kowar showed that he can pitch with a little bit of trouble brewing and did so in the second inning. Putting the first two batters on base with a single to Hunter Smith followed by an unlikely error by Guthrie, Kowar followed that with forcing a pop up, a ground out, and then his fourth strikeout of the day to leave the inning unscathed.
Then things got scary for The Tribe as the Gator bats blew up. Junior Mike Rivera led off the Gator half of the second with a single and would score one batter later when freshman Austin Langworthy pulled a shot just inside the right field foul pole for a home run. Freshman Keenan Bell singled through the left side. It was the young man’s second hit in two at-bats as a Gator. Junior Christian Hicks singled through the left side advancing Bell. Both Bell and Hicks stole bases to place two runners in scoring position, before Guthrie reached first on an erroneous throw by the shortstop scoring Bell and advancing Hicks to third. Liput then smashed a home run over the scoreboard in right-center for three RBI and makes the score 7-0, making it the largest scoring inning for this young season so far.
The Gators would add two more in the fourth inning when Rivera singled in two runs on a shot up the middle. Guthrie got on base with a one-out single, followed by sophomore Jonathan India’s hit by pitch. Schwarz would then get on via fielder’s choice forcing India out at second and runners on the corners. Rivera stepped into a fast ball and drilled up the middle for the 8th and 9th run of the contest for the Gators.
The Tribe would finally get on the scoreboard in the sixth inning. Kowar was dynamic for the first 5.1 innings of work before O’Sullivan made several changes on defense. With one out and nobody on in the sixth inning, new third baseman Christian Hicks fielded a tough ball but threw a little high to new first baseman Keenan Bell who had to come off the bag to make the catch to net Brandon Raquet on base. Ryan Hall then walked to set up runners on first and second. Cullen Large then stepped up to the plate and doubled down the right field line scoring both Raquet and Hall. A wild pitch and a passed ball resulted in Large scoring the third run of the inning. Kowar was allowed to finish one last batter and he struck out Hunter Smith for his 10th strikeout of the game.
Freshman Andrew Baker would relieve Kowar and threw 1.1 innings of scoreless baseball, tossing two strikeouts and allowing just one hit. It was the second nice appearance for Baker in this young season.
The Gators would get two more back in the seventh inning when red hot freshman Austin Langworthy bombed one to deep center that bounced over the center field wall and Bell stepped up to crush one over the right field wall for a two RBI home run, the first of his career. That would complete the scoring for the Gators.
Freshman Nate Brown would get the first action of his career throwing in the eighth inning. Brown found himself in a tough situation walking Raquet and then giving up a one-out single to Large positioning runners on the corners. Ryder Miconi then singled scoring Raquet and advancing Large to second. Charles Ameer would then double down the left field line scoring both runners and making it an 11-6 score. O’Sullivan left Brown in to finish the inning and he struck out Kyle Wrighte swinging.
Two more freshmen came to the mound for the Gators to finish off the game. Tyler Dyson started the ninth inning and got two quick outs before giving way to Nate Long. Raquet smashed one at Bell at first who was unable to corral it for a single and then a couple of balls in the dirt saw Matthew Trehub walk in four pitches. Long then settled down and struck out Large for the final out of the game and the Gators’ sweep of William and Mary.
O’Sullivan was happy about most of the day on the mound. Some young guys got work and Kowar threw very well for his first start of the season.
“I thought we got better as the weekend went on. I thought Jackson’s start there in the sixth was really, really good. He just got a little tired there in the sixth. I wanted him to get to 80-85 pitches. But I thought he was good.
“It was good to get Baker back out there and he did his job. Nate Brown, he’s a really good pitcher and is going to be really good for us this year – it was just his first outing. And the two freshmen at the end, you see the type of arms that we have, the young freshmen. They’ve got to get a little bit better finding command but obviously their ability is there.”
With all that ability, the perfectionist O’Sullivan knows they have to get better
“I thought our pitching was okay. It’ll be better as we go on,” he said. “You got a chance to see the talent that we have. I’ve very, very optimistic about our bullpen. It’s going to be good, it’s just a matter of when those guys have the light come on and it clicks for them.
O’Sullivan liked to see the bats swinging early, something that was an issue for large parts of the last two seasons.
“Keenan Bell had a chance to start in right and pulled his hands in on a ball and hit a home run. Deacon stayed in on a changeup, which was really good, and Dalton got a couple more hits. Offensively I thought we were very good as the weekend went on.
“Austin Langworthy, he’s a heck of a baseball player. He does a lot of things right on the field. Knows how to run the bases, really good defensively and he’s a really, really polished hitter and you saw him pitch on Saturday. He’s extremely valuable.”
The Gators were able to accomplish a lot of things this weekend including winning three games against a two-win NCAA Regional squad that returned most of their team from a year ago. Lots of young guys played and he saw the defense for the most part that he expects from his guys. And after a slow offensive start on Friday the bats came alive Saturday and Sunday.
“It was exciting,” he said. “The most important thing is that we got better as the weekend went on. We had a chance to move some guys around defensively to build some depth so there was a lot to take away it from today.”