The ninth ranked Gator baseball team hung on for a close 2-1 win on Sunday in Columbia, completing the sweep of 23rd ranked Missouri (21-7, 4-5 SEC). The win marks Florida’s (20-9, 5-4 SEC) first sweep of the SEC schedule, and could be a sign of a team that’s starting to come together. After getting swept by Auburn to open the conference schedule, Florida took two of three against LSU last week before winning all three games this weekend. Also, including this week’s game against Florida State, the Gators have won six of seven games versus ranked opponents in the last week and a half.
Jackson Kowar completed the strong weekend by the trio of Florida’s starting pitchers this series. The sophomore improved to 4-0 on the season, going five innings, allowing only one run and striking out four batters. He did give up five walks and six hits, but was still able to earn the win on the day. Bryce Monte De Oca (2-1) took the loss for Missouri after giving up two runs in five innings of work. Michael Byrne picked up his fourth save of the season, putting away all five batters he faced in 1.2 innings of work.
Kowar and the Gator pitching staff got all the run support they needed, and would get, in the first two innings.
The first run came in the top of the first inning with two outs. J.J. Schwarz took a 1-1 pitch and blasted a solo home run to left field. The home run was the third of the season for a Schwarz who’s been hitting better the last two weeks. After his batting average dropped to the Mendoza line (.200) during the Auburn series, he’s now back up to a .248 average, which includes eight hits in his past five games.
That's the way to start!
— Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) April 2, 2017
Florida scored again with two outs in the top of the second inning. Blake Reese reached second base after a walk and a steal. Ryan Larson drove him home with an RBI double to left center field. The Gators had a 2-0 lead at that point, enough to last them the game.
Holding Onto the Lead
Kowar’s only earned run of the game came in the bottom of the fifth inning. He walked the first two batters and followed that up by giving up a single, which loaded the bases. However, Kameron Misner grounded into a double play on the next at-bat but that was able to score shortstop Chris Cornelius to make it a 2-1 game.
Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan went to the bullpen in the sixth after Kowar walked the first batter of the inning. He brought in freshman Austin Langworthy, who only got one out, before Garrett Milchin came in and finished off the inning as part his two innings of work.
Byrne came in with one out in the eighth inning and forced a ground out and fly out from the two batters he faced, stranding a Missouri baserunner on second base. From there, he went 1-2-3 in the ninth inning, and captured his fourth save of the season.
Despite only scoring eight runs all weekend, the Gators managed to sweep the Tigers behind excellent pitching and good defense.
Florida returns to Gainesville for a four-game home stand. They welcome Stetson on Tuesday night for their second meeting of the season before hosting Tennessee for a weekend series at McKethan Stadium.