Ninth Inning Rally Pushes Gator Baseball Past Vandy

The No.12 ranked Gator baseball team has had a knack for dramatic games as of late.

Thursday night was no different, as the Gators produced five runs in the top of the ninth inning to defeat Vanderbilt in Nashville 10-6. After being much maligned for failing to score runs earlier in the season, Florida has now put up 10 runs in back-to-back games, with both games on the road (at FSU, at Vandy).

The win puts the Gators back over .500 in conference play (23-11 overall, 7-6 SEC), while the Commodores drop to 21-14 overall and 6-7 in SEC play. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said the win was one of those games that can “hopefully, really push us forward.”

Garrett Milchin (2-1) earned the win for Florida after tossing a scoreless seventh and eighth inning. Reed Hayes (0-1) took the loss for Vanderbilt after giving up five earned runs on four hits in the top of the ninth inning.

Florida starter Alex Faedo took a no decision on the night. Faedo gave up six runs in 6.0 innings, but only two of them were earned, to go along with seven strikeouts and one walk. O’Sullivan said that despite “getting behind the eight ball” in a few spots, he thought Faedo had good stuff on the night, especially his change up.

Vanderbilt starter Patrick Raby lasted just 4.1 innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits and two walks.

Recap

One of those “behind the eight ball” situations that O’Sullivan was referring to was the three-run second inning that gave Vandy a 3-0 lead.

After back-to-back singles to start the inning, an error from Jonathan India at third on a bunt allowed Vandy catcher Jason Delay to come in and score. The Commodores took advantage of that mistake, getting another sacrifice bunt and a two-out RBI single up the middle to take the three run lead.

Florida put up their first runs of the game in the top half of the following inning.

Ryan Larson, who’s been on fire in April and went 5-for-5 in the game with three runs and two RBI, got things going with one out single. After a Mark Kolozsvary walk and a Deacon Liput single, Dalton Guthrie came up with the bases loaded. Guthrie drove in Larson on a sac fly to right field, and Austin Langworthy (3-for-5, 4 RBI) singled to left center field afterwards to bring home the second run of the inning.

Missed Opportunities

A J.J. Schwarz strike out with runners on second and third stranded two base runners though, as would be a theme through the night for Florida. The Gators stranded 13 base runners in total on the night, and at least one in each of the last seven innings of the game.

That exasperation was most on display in the eighth inning. After a two-run fourth inning and a run in the fifth for Vanderbilt, the Gators tallied off a run each in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to make it a 6-5 contest. Down by a run in the eighth, it seemed like Florida had a golden opportunity to take the lead after loading the bases with two outs. Instead, Guthrie tried to steal home on a wild pitch that bounced right back off the backstop, and the inning ended frustratingly empty-handed for O’Sullivan’s side.

Late-Game Magic

Those frustrations in the dug out turned to joy though, as Florida was able to pull it together in the ninth inning.

India and Christian Hicks started off the inning with back-to-back singles through the right side. The single was India’s only hit of the game, and O’Sullivan said he was proud of how India kept his chin up to come through with a “clutch hit” to start the Gator rally.

Then who else but Ryan Larson showed up with another big hit, an RBI single to left field to tie up the game.

The inning didn’t end there though.

Kolozsvary sacrificed bunt to move over Hicks and Larson, and an intentional walk to Liput loaded the bases for Florida for the third time in the game.

The third time was the charm.

Guthrie produced an RBI single to center that scored Hicks to give Florida their first lead of the game, 7-6. The following at-bat, Langworthy came up with one of the biggest hits of the game, an almost cathartic-like bases clearing double that gave the Gators a more comfortable four run lead.

Then, Michael Byrne came in the bottom of the ninth and the sophomore tossed a scoreless inning to seal the comeback win for Florida.

Up Next

The Gators take on Vanderbilt on Thursday night for game two of the series. Sophomore RHP Brady Singer (4-1, 1.60 ERA) gets the start for Florida while junior RHP Kyle Wright (1-4, 4.81 ERA) takes the mound for Vanderbilt. First pitch is at 7:30 p.m.

About Jonathan Acosta

Native New Englander. Follow me on Twitter: @jonacosta_10

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