The Gators navigated uncharted waters on Sunday, looking to clinch a weekend series on a Sunday for only the second time all season. Unlike the Miami series, Florida succeeds in their mission this time in a 5-2 victory over Jacksonville University. Sunday’s victory did not come without a little bit of fire and chirps from both dugouts.
“Credit Jacksonville they did a nice job this weekend, we probably needed a game like this to get a little heated,” Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
Swinging Through the Weekend:
Despite dropping his hot hitting streak at 30 games, left fielder Jacob Young has not lost his touch at the plate. Leading off for the Gators, Young doubled to open up the game marking his 27th hit of the season. With his two doubles in today’s game, Young now owns the record for the most hits in the country at the moment with 28.
Today’s designated hitter Nathan Hickey, who had a break from behind the plate today, followed with a single to score Young. Third-baseman Kirby McMullen followed suit with a single of his own to bring Hickey around. That would not be the last time McMullen was punishing at the plate for Gators on Sunday.
JU was able to get on the board in the top of the third with two runs given up by starting pitcher, Hunter Barco to tie the game at two apiece. Things got a little squirmy for the left-hander in the third as he gave up two singles, a walk and a wild pitch to advance runners into scoring position. Barco edged out a strikeout to end the inning to keep the Dolphins from claiming the lead.
Florida responded in the bottom of the fifth with power. Leading off in the 5th, catcher Mac Guscette doubled down the left-field line. Next up, Hickey flies one out, sending Guscette around towards home. A missed tag by JU catcher Cory Heffron allowed Guscette to add another run to the board and give the Gators back the lead. Following the review, McMullen launched a no-doubter that required no second look deep over left-center field. McMullen’s solo home-run marked his fourth home-run in as many games.
“He is hitting in the middle of the order for reason,” O’Sullivan said.”He certainly had a good weekend for us.”
First baseman and fourth-year junior Jordan Butler wrapped up the day for Gators at the plate, blasting his first home-run of the season in the eighth inning.
From the Hill:
Securing his second win of the season, south-paw Hunter Barco notched seven strikeouts, allowed seven hits but only two runs over the span of a little over six innings.
“Today was probably his best start,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought he was really sharp and other than botching the bunt play and a four-pitch walk to start the sixth after we scored a couple, he was really sharp.”
Closer Franco Aleman took over for Barco in the seventh. After a few rocky outings, Aleman looked the part as the Gator’s clutch closer that he has been expected to be by the coaching staff all season.
“It was really good to stretch out Franco (Aleman). I think we need to get more out of him.” O’Sullivan said. He also dubbed Aleman’s performance today his best to date. Aleman also picked up his second save of the season.
Where the Fun Begins:
Now 17 games in, the real fun is just about to begin for the Gators according to their head coach.
“It’s going to be a real fun week,” O’Sullivan said. “This is where the real fun starts.”
The Gators will pack up and head to Tallahassee for a true road test against in-state rival Florida State on Tuesday, March 16. Later in the week, conference play will begin as Florida will open the SEC against Texas A&M.