Following a shaky start, Jackson Kowar righted the ship and led the Gators to a 10-2 win over Siena on Saturday. Florida struck early and often on offense to give Kowar more than enough assistance. The victory is Florida’s second in a row and it ensures a season-opening series win.
Pitching up to Par
Kowar was less than stellar in the first inning. Right off the top, he surrendered two runs via a two-run homer from MAAC preseason player of the year Joe Drpich. Siena tallied four total hits in the frame and looked to have Kowar’s fastball timed up early.
However, after making some adjustments, Kowar settled down and proceeded to retire the side in order in the second inning. In total, Kowar racked up five 1-2-3 innings. Once he found a rhythm, Siena started to slump. In fact, Kowar finished his outing by retiring 14 consecutive Siena batters.
After the game, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he was impressed with the hot-stretch. “Jackson really settled in,” O’Sullivan said. “I think the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh was probably the best sequence of innings he’s put together as a Gator.”
Kowar’s final line: W, 7 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, 10 K, 0 BB
In the eighth inning, Florida turned to freshman right-hander Jack Leftwich. Much like Kowar, he had a rough first couple of batters. He gave up back-to-back singles to begin his outing, but a meeting at the mound with captain JJ Schwarz seemed to settle his nerves. Leftwich responded emphatically by striking out Drpich and then inducing an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Michael Byrne entered in the ninth inning. By then the Gator offense had already built a 10-2 lead, but the preseason All-American was sharp nevertheless. He put a quick 1-2-3 cap on the top of the ninth to seal a Florida win.
Unlike Friday night, it didn’t take long for the Gator hitters to jump on Siena’s starter. Nelson Maldonado responded to Siena’s early offensive attack with an RBI of his own in the bottom of the first to cut the Saints’ lead to 2-1. However, the Gator bats really got rolling in second, and they did so with a little help from Siena.
With two outs in the inning and two runners on base, Siena left fielder Dan Lowndes dropped what was a routine fly ball off the bat of Jonathan India. Blake Reese and Nick Horvath, who were both in motion on contact scored giving the Gators a 3-2 advantage.
Schwarz would immediately add salt to the wound with a two-run homer extending the Florida lead to 5-2. After the game, he commented on how the offense seemed to be clicking on all cylinders. “I was getting pitches I could drive and I put some good swings on them,” Schwarz said. “The whole team swang the bat well.”
After taking the lead in the second, the Gators didn’t look back. Schwarz singled to score Horvath in the fourth inning, good for his third RBI of the game. Horvath scoring was a theme throughout. He was 3 for 4 on the day and is now 5 for 8 in the series. Maldonado drove him home in the sixth inning to make the Florida lead 7-2.
In the seventh inning, Wil Dalton homered and India singled in Blake Reese to put the Gators up 9-2. As if that weren’t enough, Keenan Bell rang a solo homer off the scoreboard in right field to put a cherry on top of Florida’s offensive outburst.
— Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) February 17, 2018
Florida goes for the sweep over Siena on Sunday at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on SEC Network+.