The trio of Kowar, Michael Byrne, and Austin Langworthy combined to give up just two runs on the day and that meant the Florida defense gave up just two runs for the entire series against Miami. At the same time, Florida got a little bit of a rhythm at the plate and landed six runs, including four consecutive innings of scoring by a Gator offense that had only produced five runs in the previous three games.
“I thought we played our best game offensively obviously today,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said shortly after he game. “We did a really nice job there in the fourth and tacked on a run in each the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.”
Kowar steamed through the first eleven outs before Miami second baseman Romi Gonzalez hit the first of his two home runs on the day. Gonzalez went opposite field over the right field wall to give the Hurricanes the only lead they would have for the weekend.
The lead wouldn’t last very long.
In the bottom of the fourth stanza, Florida sophomore Deacon Liput reached base off of starter Michael Mediavilla (4.0 innings, 3 ER, 5 hits, 6 SO, 4 BB) with a one out single on a tough ball to handle at second base. Sophomore Nelson Maldonado followed that with a double to left field advancing Liput to third. Junior Christian Hicks then collected an RBI with a shot out to center scoring Liput, Maldonado advanced to third on the play. Junior Nick Horvath singled through the right side and Maldonado scored. Junior Dalton Guthrie then doubled to right field and Horvath scored, but Guthrie tried to get three and was picked off between second and third to end the fourth.
The inning netted the three runs that would be enough for the Gators to finish the Hurricanes off, but in the fifth the Gators struck again. With Evan McKendry (2.0 IP, 2 ER, 1 BB) taking the mound for Mediavilla, Langworthy reached first on a bobbled ball by Miami shortstop. India hit the ball to the wall in right and the right fielder Hunter Tackett had a tough time with it in right-center. The shot was called a double and Langworthy advanced to third. Junior J.J. Schwarz then sacrificed Langworthy home and India to third for the last score of the fifth.
Miami made some noise in the top of the sixth inning getting two runners on the base paths and it was enough for O’Sullivan to call in sophomore Michael Byrne to finish the third out of the inning. Kowar pitched an excellent 5.2 innings, and spreading out four hits with one earned run and seven strikeouts to go along with three walks. Byrne struck out the only batter he faced in the sixth.
The Gators added another run in the sixth off of McKendry as junior Christian Hicks (1-3, RBI) reached first on one of three errors by the Hurricanes. Another would come when McKendry would throw wild of the bag on a pick off at first and Hicks would get second base. With two outs, Guthrie (3-4, 2 RBI, 1 DBL) singled to center field scoring Hicks.
In the top of the seventh, Byrne walked pinch hitter Randy Batista and then saw Batista erased when James Davison grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. After another walk, O’Sullivan didn’t like where it was going with Byrne, so he made the right substitution again, bringing in freshman Austin Langworthy who would strike out Johnny Ruiz to end the half inning.
“He was pushing the ball a little bit to left handers today and looked a little out of sorts, but the out in the sixth was a big one,” O’Sullivan said of Byrne.
Florida went to the plate in the bottom half of the seventh and for the fourth inning in a row, the Gators crossed the plate as Miami pitcher Albert Maury entered the game in the seventh and found himself immediately in trouble. Schwarz singled up the middle. Schwarz would then be forced out with a fielder’s choice on a shot to shortstop by senior Ryan Larson. Liput would get on via fielder’s choice when he hits back to the pitcher who turns to throw to second for the force and nobody is covering the bag. Both Liput and Larson were safe at first and second. Larson and Liput then pulled off the double steal and with two runners in scoring position sophomore Nelson Maldonado stepped up to the plate and sacrificed Larson home with a dep fly to center field. That would do it for the Florida scoring on the day.
Miami would get another run back in the eighth, the same way they got one in the fourth. Gonzalez would get all of a one-out Langworthy fastball and park it over the left field wall… this time for his second homer of the game. But, it was too little too late as Langworthy (2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 3 SO) would buckle down and finish the game unscathed the rest of the way.
O’Sullivan enjoyed the all-around effort from his guys on Sunday.
“Dalton had a really good day at the plate and had three hits,” he said. “I thought Christian Hicks swung the bat very well today. (We) played great defense again with no errors. Jackson went out and did his thing. Michael Byrne came in and got a big strikeout to end the sixth and Langworthy is a pretty good compliment when he comes in behind those guys that throw pretty hard. All-in-all I thought it was a very good day. I thought we swung the bats a lot better today. Credit Mediavilla, he threw three 3-2 changeups for strikes and kind of got us off the fast ball a little bit. He threw just enough strikes to make it difficult to hit. It is hard to sweep anyone, let alone a team like Miami.
Guthrie’s three hits paced the Gators and India now leads the Gators in RBI with seven on the season. The two were a big part of the success at the plate on Sunday.
“I thought our approaches were much better as the game went on,” O’Sullivan said. “We just kind of needed one guy to get a hit with a runner in scoring position to loosen things up and I thought Nick’s (Horvath) hit was a big one.
It was another game where the Gators stranded 10 base runners, but the string of four innings of bringing home at least a run is something O’Sullivan says would be enough to win most games.
“Our pitching has a chance to be so good on the weekends, we just have to get those runners in from third with less than two (outs),” he said. If you can score a run with an out, you have to make sure you have your best at bat. If our pitchers throw as well as they are capable on the weekend, three or four runs might be enough. When you’ve got opportunities to score runners, especially in league play and we start seeing these really good Friday-Saturday starters, you have to take advantage of those opportunities.”
O’Sullivan was also excited about the fan support for the series as 16,607 fans were on hand for the three game tilt, more than any three game series in Gators Baseball history.
“The fans were outstanding all weekend,” he said. “It makes a huge difference in the way our kids play, especially on Sunday. Sundays are difficult days because it’s been two difficult games on Friday and Saturday and sometimes the guys are a little bit tired. I always say you have to bring your pom-poms on Sundays and mid-week games, because everybody is always fired up for Friday and Saturday. The fans were outstanding and I was very pleased with the way they got behind our team this weekend and it certainly made a difference.
Up next for the Gators is UCF who travels to Gainesville for a game on Tuesday (6:30 p.m.) and the Gators return the favor on Wednesday (6:30 p.m.). Of utmost importance for O’Sullivan is to get several young pitchers on the mound in the two games so he can start to figure out how those young guys are going to fit in moving forward.
“I just told the team that I am really excited about getting some of the young freshmen out there,” he said. “We’re going to have to score some runs. We’re going to start (freshman right-hander) Nate Brown on Tuesday, get Tyler Dyson, Nate Long, Garrett Milchin, and some other guys. They need to get out there and pitch. I’m excited about it. I know our guys are too. We’ll get behind those guys and get them some run support and start developing our pen a little more.”