Mike Rivera via Tim Casey / UAA Communications

Mike Rivera’s blast the difference again in Gators win

For the second time in the last four nights, junior catcher Mike Rivera was the deciding factor with a multi-run home run to win the game. On Tuesday, a three run shot was the difference in a 4-1 win over Florida State and on Friday, Rivera helped the Gators (18-9, 3-4 SEC) get their first SEC road win with a two-run shot in a 4-3 win over Missouri (21-5, 4-3 SEC) at Taylor Stadium in Columbia, Mo.

Junior righty Alex Faedo was strong through most of the game on the mound, as he was spotted a couple of runs in the first three innings.

Sophomore Deacon Liput led off the game with a single in the first off of ace Tanner Houck for the Tigers, Liput then stole second and made his way to third on a fielder’s choice before junior J.J. Schwarz singled him home for the Gators to open up the scoring in the first stanza.

“Deacon continues to swing the bat well,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said following the contest. “He got three hits and stayed in the middle of the field.”

After getting the first batter on again in the second, the Gators failed to score, but got the leadoff batter on in the third as well when Nick Horvath started with a walk. Liput’s second of three hits on the night was a single that pushed Horvath to third and a batter later, scored on an error by Missouri second baseman Robbie Glendinning on a ground ball from Schwarz.

As Faedo barreled through the Missouri batting order a few times, that would be all the scoring in the contest until Rivera took a 1-0 fastball and sent it over the left-center field wall scoring Nelson Maldonado who was hit by pitch to lead off the sixth.

“Mikey obviously got a hold of one and hit a home run to left-center, O’Sullivan said. “Tonight the wind was blowing in and it was a cold night and the ball wasn’t travelling. He’s continued to do good.”

Missouri finally got on the board in the seventh with a leadoff double from Alex Sample and a two-out RBI single from Chris Cornelius.

A huge error in left field by senior Ryan Larson was costly in the eighth. A high pop fly near the foul line in deep left field fell to the ground as Larson misjudged it on his run to try and get to the ball allowing Trey Harris two bases on the play. Harris would eventually score from the play on a two out double from Brian Sharp.

That would be it for Faedo who threw 117 pitches in 7.2 innings. He tossed 7 strike outs and walked one while giving up just one earned run on the night.

Freshman lefty Andrew Baker would get the call from the bull pen and Missouri would sub pinch hitter Brett Bond to face baker. The move paid off and after an extended at-bat, Bond would single to right field scoring Sharp.

O’Sullivan would go to the pen again and bring in reliever Michael Byrne. Byrne struck out the only batter he faced in the eighth and retired the side in the ninth for his third save of the season.

“Andrew came in and fell behind a hitter, but threw some quality pitches,” O’Sullivan said. “They had a veteran guy in Bond come in and got a nice base hit and Michael Byrne’s been very big for us. He did a really good job.”

After the game O’Sullivan was pretty pleased with is offense. The Gators were able to tally nine hits on the night against one of the better pitchers they will face all year long.

"This was two of the best pitchers in the country going head-to-head tonight," O'Sullivan said. "I kept saying all along our bats were starting to come alive and we hit a lot of bats really hard against one of the best pitchers in the country."

"Christian Hicks got a couple of hits, got a two strike bunt down. They had the wheel play on so we were slashing there. We just have to do a better job of getting him in there from third with less than two outs."

Always the defensive master, the error in left field by Larson was one that O’Sullivan wasn’t happy about.

“I think the biggest thing defensively that hurt us was obviously the dropped ball in left field,” he said. “That’s kind of the same thing that happened with Alex on Friday night at Auburn. We dropped a ball in left field and the flood gates kind of opened.”

Overall, he liked the way his guys played in the field; especially given short stop Dalton Guthrie and third baseman Jonathan India are still missing from the field for a while.

“We’re playing with two of our starters out on the left side of the infield,” he said. “I thought Blake Reese (at third) had a nice night and Hicks continues to play really solid short stop for us. To beat a quality team on the road without having the left side of your infield in there, it kind of shows our depth.

“I told the guys yesterday that we’re not going to hang our heads because India can’t throw for a week or so and Dalton can’t throw for a week. We’ll get them back probably by next week for Tennessee, but our replacement players are in my opinion are better than a lot of team’s starters. It’s just man up and we just have to have guys step up. Christian has been playing very well.

The Gators have faced some turmoil this season Just last week against LSU they took a 5-0 lead into the sixth inning on Sunday, only to lose to the Tigers 10-6. Tonight they faced some turmoil late and were able to shut these Tigers down.

“We hung in there,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve lost some tough games in similar fashion, where things hadn’t quite gone the way we wanted them to go in the last six or seven outs of the ball game.  We’ll enjoy it tonight, but we have to come back tomorrow and play just as good.

Florida lines up against Missouri in game two of the series on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET and Sophomore Brady Singer will throw for the Gators. You can watch the game live on SEC Network+ or listen live on the Gators IMG Sports Network.

 

 


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