In the bottom of the third, Florida took a 1-0 lead with a Jonathan India home run over the right field wall. Finishing off a great weekend, the sophomore also walked and was hit by pitch in the contest while punishing Ole Miss (29-20, 11-13 SEC) with four hits in nine at bats and two RBI on the weekend, his first action back from injury in a few weeks.
Ole Miss would tie the game up in the top half of the fourth on a Will Golsan single followed by a double by Nick Fortes scoring Golsan on the play. Florida starter Jackson Kowar would find his way through the rest of the inning unscathed and in time for the Gator bats to strike again.
Freshman Austin Langworthy led off the fourth inning with a walk and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. A one out single by sophomore Nelson Maldonado brought Langworthy home. Junior Christian Hicks then singled to left moving Maldonado to third. India then was hit by pitch loading the bases. Batting as the designated hitter, junior Mark Kolozsvary would send a one-out fly ball to deep center field for the sacrifice and scoring Maldonado on the play.
Leading 3-1 after four, the gators would double it up in the fifth. Senior Ryan Larson, who leads the team in batting average, belted a solo home run over everything in sight beyond the left field wall to start the inning. It was his second dinger of the series. Two outs later, hot hitting J.J. Schwarz singled to left field followed by a walk for Maldonado. A wild pitch that got away from the catcher allowed Schwarz to score from second and Maldonado to get to third. Hicks, who has also been on a tear of late, struck again in the contest doubled to right field pushing across Maldonado for the Gators final run.
“J.J. (Schwarz) had a great weekend,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “Great to get (Jonathan) India back in the lineup. We’re swinging the bats well. Once we get Mike (Rivera) back, think that will help our lineup even more.”
Kowar would go 6.2 innings giving up a run in the sixth inning on a lead off Tate Blackman home run. Kowar was pulled with two outs in the seventh pulled with two outs in the seventh after a walk that amounted to his 93rd pitch of the day. Freshman Garrett Milchin would relieve Kowar and finish off the last batter in the seventh before surrendering a couple of runs in the eighth.
Sophomore closer Michael Byrne would come in and finish off the last five outs of the game marking his 13th save of the season, tied for the team record with Shaun Anderson (2016), Josh Fogg (1998), and Danny Wheeler (1994).
“Jackson (Kowar) was really good on the mound, just kind of ran out of gas there in the seventh O’Sullivan said. “Thought he threw great, had command of all three pitches. Obviously Michael (Byrne) got his 13th save to tie the school record. Think the play of the game really, to be honest with you, was the ball (Nick) Horvath ran down in right center. Not sure we have many other people on our team that would make that play.
O’Sullivan was quite pleased of the result after the game and the series. The Gators score 24 runs over the weekend and did a good job of getting multi-run innings against as good of a pitching staff as they should see the rest of the year.
”Didn’t know going into the weekend how it was going to go,” he said. “Really impressed with Ole Miss’ pitching staff. That says a lot about our offense and how we’re swinging the bats right now. It was a really complete weekend. Played good defense, swung the bats well (against) the best pitching staff top to bottom, statistically, in the league. We swung the bats really well … did a really nice job with two strikes and two outs.
Florida now has a one game lead on Kentucky in the SEC East race and tied with Mississippi State for the top record in the conference with two conference series remaining. The Gators have one mid-week contest before travelling to Alabama (5-19 SEC) next weekend
“We put ourselves in a nice position (in the SEC),” O’Sullivan said. “First and foremost, we have South Florida coming in here Tuesday. They’re a top-25 team, and a team we might see in a regional, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. None of the games are easy this time of the year. Everyone is fighting for something.”