Photo by Danny Parker

Gators walk to 5-4 win over Auburn

The top-seeded Florida Gators got a late start in the SEC Tournament due to weather, but persevered through a mid-game pouring rain and the tardiness of the contest to beat Auburn for the first time this season by a score of 5-4. In the process, sophomore pitcher Michael Byrne recorded a school record 14th save on the season.

After being swept by the Tigers in the first conference series of the season this year, Florida got a rematch and looked to be in control early.

The game saw the return of junior catcher Mike Rivera after several weeks on the injured list. Rivera would score the first run of the contest, a run that would prove to be just as important as any scored on the night.

In his first bat in weeks, Rivera popped up in shallow right field only to see the Tiger second baseman misjudge the ball and it fall safely to the ground. Rivera would make it to second on the play and one batter later, sophomore Deacon Liput would score the Gators’ catcher with a single through the right side.

When Florida last played Auburn, they were suffering mightily at the plate. The Gators have improved dramatically swinging the ball and in the fourth inning they made the Tigers pay with a big inning.

Junior J.J. Schwarz continued his torrid hitting streak with a one-out double down the right field line. Sophomore Jonathan India singles through the left side with two outs scoring Schwarz. Junior Christian Hicks then doubled to left-center, scoring India. Junior DH Mark Kolozsvary singled to left field scoring Hicks.  The Gators would leave the fourth inning leading 4-0.

Junior right-hander Alex Faedo cruised through the first six innings, usually allowing one base runner per stanza, but no runs through six.

In the seventh it started coming a part a bit.

Tiger catcher Blake Logan singled to right to start the seventh inning for the Tigers. Faedo would then walk Bowen McGuffin. That would be as far as O’Sullivan would allow Faedo to go, replacing him with senior Frank Rubio.

Rubio forced a grounder and fielder’s choice putting runners on the corners for Auburn and O’Sullivan then went to Nick Horvath on the mound.

With Horvath on the mound, the skies emptied and the rain poured ferociously. A Throwing error by India landed Jonah Todd on first and scored Logan.  Dylan Ingram then walked loading the bases. Conor Davis followed that with a double to right scoring two.

Freshman Tyler Dyson would take the mound with the rain still falling and a wild pitch would then score Ingram from third and tie the game 4-4. Dyson would then strike out Josh Anthony and go 1-2-3 in the eighth inning for what was still an alright outing.

The Gators then stepped up to the plate in the eighth and it started with Schwartz who laid out a one-out single to right field. Horvath then walked and India singled through the left side loading the bases. Junior Christian Hicks walks with bases loaded and Gators took a 5-4 lead.

It was then up to Byrne who would retire the side in the ninth to finish with his 14th save of the season.

O’Sullivan was pleased as usual with the pitching performances of the evening.

“I thought he threw the ball great tonight,” he said of Faedo who finished with 6 innings pitched, 7 strikeouts, 2 walks, and 1 earned run. “Obviously he needed to bounce back from last weekend’s start and now he’s ready to throw next weekend depending on when he throws.

“I did think that Tyler Dyson threw the ball very well. I probably should have brought him in an inning before that, but the bases were loaded and I knew Nick would throw strikes. I stayed to get more and more comfortable with Tyler and Tyler’s situation. He really kept us right there. Obviously Mike did his thing, got his 14th save, a new school record.”

O’Sullivan believes it is important for each of his series starting pitchers to throw and a win guarantee them three games in the tournament to make that happen.

“At least we got through the rain and got the win and obviously we have off tomorrow,” he said. “It’s important win for us because it insures us that we have two games, both Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar will get their starts. We’ll get ready for the regional. It gives Alex 9 or 10 days off, depending on when he pitches next weekend.”

The Gators had 9 hits on the night but another opportunistic big inning like they have had several of in the last several weeks.

“I thought we had a lot of good at-bats during the third and fourth innings, especially with two outs and built ourselves a 4-0 lead,” he said. “We had a couple of mental lapses there in the seventh and gave up the four runs.

“A bunch of guys had good at-bats with two strikes. That’s what we’ve been doing here the last month or so, having our best at-bats with runners in scoring position, which we weren’t doing through the first third of the season

The Gators are now scheduled to play at noon on Friday against the winner of the Arkansas and Mississippi State contest.

“It’s a late night, but the guys will enjoy the day of tomorrow,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ll practice a little bit and wait for Friday.”

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