In an unseasonably chilly evening at Florida Ballpark, the Florida Gator baseball team rebounded with a series-opening win over the fourth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels. Florida’s 4-1 victory over Ole Miss snapped their pristine 6-0 win streak in conference play. Though the bats were almost as cool as the weather, the Gators’ pitching was hot off the mound. Right-handed pitcher Franco Aleman, with the help of typical opening series starter Tommy Mace, tag-teamed to hold the Rebels to only four hits and one run.
Changes in the Lineup:
Gator coach Kevin O’Sullivan announced early in the week his plan to pull both of his aces in Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich out of the starting rotation for the weekend series over the Rebels. Instead, O’Sullivan tossed junior transfer Franco Aleman and sophomore Christian Scott into Thursday and Friday’s match ups. To many Gators, this came as a shock and perhaps even extremely risky. However, the calculated risk paid off for O’Sullivan and the Gators. Aleman and Mace piggybacked off each other to combine for 10 strikeouts and eight scoreless innings.
Typically pitching in relief for the Gators, Aleman looked the part of an SEC starter going 1-2-3 against the top of the Rebels order in the top of the first. The first to greet Aleman following his hot start was none other than Mace.
“Tommy is a great teammate, it wasn’t an easy decision to make,” O’Sullivan said. ” I want to give us the best chance to be successful and put us in the best position to win.”
Back-to-back K ❗️ Bringing the 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙩 🥵
Let 'em know @MaceTommy
M5 | UF 2, Ole Miss 1 pic.twitter.com/JzDs9fgjKF
— Florida Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) April 2, 2021
Aleman worked through four innings, allowing just three hits and holding Ole Miss to one run. In relief, Mace picked up right where Aleman left off allowing just one hit through five innings while also tallying seven strikeouts. Mace wrapped up the game in a typical dominating fashion, striking out the side in the ninth.
” That was the plan,” he said. ” Tommy to start a clean inning and Franco to give us four and Tommy to go five and it worked out really well.”
Mace picked up his fifth victory of the season with tonight’s win.
How It Happened
Leadoff man and captain Jacob Young fired things off in the bottom of the first with a leadoff double. Designated hitter Nathan Hickey followed suit with a double of his own to score Young. The duo’s two doubles put the Gators up 1-0 after one inning of play. Ole Miss came firing back in the bottom of the third with an RBI from second baseman Peyton Chatagnier to score right fielder Hayden Leatherwood who had singled to tie the game at 1-1.
Florida added on a run in the fourth with a single from second baseman Colby Halter to score Jordan Butler who had reached base on an error. The Gators with the help from their pitching staff held onto the 2-1 led until the bottom of the eighth.
” I’ve played Ole Miss enough times to know if they are down a couple runs they aren’t going to take pitches,” O’Sullivan said. “I am really proud of the way they all responded.”
The Gators added two much-needed insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth. Jordan Carrion started things off with a single, Young tripled to score Carrion and an RBI from Hickey brought Young across the plate to make it 4-1.
Florida will return the field tomorrow night against Ole Miss in the second game of the series. Christian Scott will take the mound for his first start of the season.