The number-one ranked Florida Gators baseball team continues to steamroll through their first quarter of the season. They defeated USF 2-1 to improve to 16-0 on the season and complete the sweep.
The current winning streak is the best in school history. The Gators also extend their winning streak against the Bulls to four.
A Pitcher’s Duel is an Understatement
Neither team had a hit until the bottom of the fourth when Jacob Young singled up the middle to reach base. Just to make a note of this: Jacob Young now has a 17-game hitting streak.
Gators starter Hunter Barco pitched five no-hit innings before USF got a rally going in the sixth. After three innings, USF starter Carson Ragsdale had already struck out the Gators seven times. By the end of the game, three total runs scored on seven total hits from both sides.
With no big hits in sight, the Gators were going to have to get creative to win.
Base Paths Become a Race Track
Following Young’s aforementioned single, Nathan Hickey hit a ground-ball single, and Young legged his way around second to push for third. With Kendrick Calilao batting, Hickey stole second to put both runners in scoring position.
Ragsdale would strikeout Calilao, but catcher Jake Sullivan’s glove was still down by his knee when the pitch reached the plate, and the ball went to the backstop. Young sprinted to home on the disastrous drop third strike to give the Gators a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
Barco Loses the Bid and the Lead
Barco saw his second pitch of the sixth hit to left field, ending his no-hit bid. After playing small ball to get Gonzalez into scoring position, JD Dutka ripped a double into left field to tie the game 1-1.
With the help of a diving catch by Jud Fabian in centerfield, Barco held USF to just the one run. However, Florida Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan was ready to go to the bullpen after the shakey inning.
Christian Scott came to relieve Barco, pitching two scoreless innings. He allowed a single baserunner and faced the minimum.
Nathan Hickey stepped up to the plate with an under-the-radar streak on the line. He had homered in his last three games and was likely down to his last at-bat of the game. Hickey didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity and bashed the first pitch he saw from Orion Kerkering to right field. The Gators had the lead back and Hickey extended his homer streak to four.
“I was just looking for something over the plate, just trying get the barrel on it,” Hickey said. “He threw a fast, and that’s what I was hitting. So, I just put a good swing on a good pitch.”
Ben Specht came in in the ninth inning and slammed the door on the afternoon game, giving the Gators a 2-1 win and an even longer winning streak.
Rivalry Week: Baseball Edition
Florida heads into a week where they will play their two biggest rivals: Florida State and Georgia.
The Sunshine Showdown (Florida State) starts March 10, while Florida takes on Georgia in a three-game series March 13-15.