As the sun was setting behind the Florida Ballpark, the Gators were just heating up. A five-run sixth inning and a whopping eight-run seventh inning carried the Florida Gators to an 18-2 win over the Samford Bulldogs. Saturday’s win secured the series for the Gators as their record improves to 5-2.
Gator leadoff hitter and right-fielder Jacob Young started off strong for the Orange and Blue with a leadoff double. With this hit, Young extended his hitting streak to 25 games over a span of 638 days. Later, a ground out from designated hitter Nathan Hickey sent Young home to score the game’s first run. First basemen Jordan Butler followed up with a single to score centerfielder Jud Fabian who reached on a fielder’s choice; Butler has hit safely in every Gator game this season. Florida would score again on a single from freshman catcher Mac Guscette to score butler.
Meanwhile, defensively for the Gators Jack Leftwich put together a strong outing in his second start of the season on the mound. The right-hander pitched 5.2 innings, recorded six strikeouts and only allowed two runs while earning his first win of the season. Both runs came off solo home-runs for the Bulldogs; catcher Kaden Dreier launched one over the wall in the top of the fifth to pull Samford within two runs. First baseman Sonny DiChiara followed suit in the top of the sixth to bring the score to 4-2. Soon after, Leftwich’s day was done as Christian Scott came on in relief.
Gator coach Kevin O’Sullivan is anxious to see Leftwich continue to progress this season. ” I’m really anxious to see him get back to where he was in the preseason,” he said. “His stuff was really electric.”
Can’t Stop the Fire
The bottom of the sixth brought trouble to the Samford pitching staff as the Gators found their rhythm. Jordan Carrion singled to score Guscette and after walks later to Young and Jud
Fabian, Nathan Hickey hit a grand slam homer to break open the game.
” I wasn’t very happy when they walked Jud in front of me,” Hickey said. “Jud is a really good hitter, he has been on a tear lately, but I felt like they were gunning for me.”
Hickey, who hit the first-ever home run out of Florida Ballpark, put the Gators up by a score of 9-2 at that point.
” Right when it came off the bat, I didn’t think I had it,” he said. “They were pitching backwards to what you are normally looking for. He threw me up a fastball and I hit it on the barrel.”
A clean frame from Christian Scott in the top of the seventh sent the Gators back to the plate with scorching bats and plenty of patience. Samford allowed six walks in the bottom of the seventh along and the Gators cashed in, scoring eight runs in the inning. Florida added on one more run in the bottom of the eighth inning on a single from Kris Armstrong, his second of the evening, to score Kendrick Calilao to bring the final score to 18-2.
Fan the Flame
Overall, O’Sullivan was pleased with his team’s performance.
” I thought we played really well,” he said. We started four freshmen in the six, seven, eight, and nine-hole and they all did really well. Three of the four got hits tonight and Colby Halter got a couple walks.”
In particular, second-baseman Jordan Carrion has continued to wow the staff, earning the closing role in the ninth inning. ” We threw Jordan out there in the ninth to see if we can add some depth as we move along,” O’ Sullivan said. Carrion got the job done while also adding two RBI and hits at the plate and a solid defensive effort in the infield.
Next up, Florida will send left-handed pitcher Hunter Barco to the mound for Sunday’s start. ” I’m really anxious to get Hunter Barco out there, he has worked really hard this week,” O’Sullivan said.
The Gators and Bulldogs will wrap up the series on Sunday with first pitch coming at 1 p.m.