COURTESY OF UAA COMMUNICATIONS
Florida (28-13, 11-8 SEC) drew five walks in the final inning, including two with the bases loaded, as Georgia (17-26, 5-14 SEC) failed to hold onto its one-run lead.
The Gators took a 3-0 lead after three innings and held the score for much of the game. The Bulldogs finally got on the board in the seventh inning, scoring four runs on four hits to take a 4-3 lead before UF took advantage of the free passes in the ninth.
Christian Hicks led the UF offense with a 3-for-4 night and a pair of RBI. Deacon Liput and Dalton Guthrie also had multi-hit nights for the Gators.
On the mound, Alex Faedo went 6.1 innings and allowed three runs on six hits. Garrett Milchin tossed 1.1 scoreless innings and earned his fourth win of the year.
Michael Byrne pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his ninth save of the season.
Florida broke through first, scoring a pair of runs in the second inning. JJ Schwarz walked to open the inning and Hicks doubled to set the Gators up with runners on second and third and no outs.
Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan used some unusual lineup management in the designated hitter spot and it paid off. Saturday’s starting pitcher Brady Singer was listed in the ninth spot in the lineup but Blake Reese took his place the first time through the order.
Reese stepped up in his first plate appearance and dropped a two-run single into right field to give UF a 2-0 lead.
The Gators added another run in the third with three straight singles. Hicks’ RBI single scored Nelson Maldonado from third for a 3-0 advantage.
Georgia was held scoreless until the seventh when they put together a one-out rally to knock Faedo from the game.
Mitchell Webb doubled into the left field corner and LJ Talley drew a walk to set the Bulldogs up in scoring position.
Second baseman Will Proctor delivered the first blow with a one-out double off the left field wall to make it 3-1.
After a RBI groundout to short, Tucker Bradley tied the game with a double to left field. Cam Shepherd gave Georgia a 4-3 lead with a single to center field to score Bradley from second.
Florida used a patient approach in the ninth for the comeback win. Guthrie reached via a one-out single to right field, but the Gators didn’t record a hit the rest of the inning.
They didn’t need to.
Five of the next six batters drew walks and the Gators scored three runs without a hit.
After a pair of walks to Austin Langworthy and Nelson Maldonado loaded the bases, Guthrie sprinted home from third to tie the game on a wild pitch.
Hicks and Mark Kolozsvary drew bases-loaded walks to give Florida a 6-4 lead heading to the bottom of the ninth.
Game two of the series between Florida and Georgia is Saturday at 2 p.m. Sunday’s finale is 1 p.m. Both games will stream live on SEC Network+ via the WatchESPN app.
Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan Quotes:
“You don’t draw them up the same every time. I thought Alex pitched good, ran into trouble in that one inning. Overall, I thought he pitched well. Garrett, again, comes in and does his job. Michael Byrne kept his composure there after a close pitch on a 3-2 count that gave them a leadoff walk. He got the middle of the order up, a two-run game, their two guys Shephard and Curry can both run the ball out of the yard. It didn’t look like anyone was going to get wrung up on the third strike so you had to throw the ball across the plate.
“We didn’t hit the ball very hard early in the game, but we found some holes. We did more delay steals today than probably all year long because of the left-hander on the mound and the catcher had a little trouble throwing the ball back to the pitcher.
“The only negative, we had two runners at third with Mark up, obviously we didn’t come through. Left-on-left with Langworthy, we bunted, then the next two guys up struck out. We really left three runs on the board again. We’re going to have to keep working at it. That’s one area, if we don’t get better, we’re going to lose a game at the end of the year because of it. We just need to keep working hard at it.”