FILE - Florida outfielder Jud Fabian bats during an NCAA college baseball game against Florida A&M in Gainesville, Fla., in this Wednesday, March 4, 2020, file photo. The Gators are in a familiar place as the consensus No. 1 team in the preseason. Fabian might be the best position player in the country. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough, File)

Gators Baseball Rocks Leiter to Tie Series

If Vanderbilt’s starting pitcher Jack Leiter is asked about the game later, he may admit it didn’t go as planned. After all, he entered the game with a 7-1 record and a 1.49 ERA. The night called for a dominant performance on the bump in Gainesville.

Instead, the dominant performance came at the plate and for the home team.

“The pace of the game last night was entirely different than it was tonight. You could feel it. You could see it in the dugout. Guys had energy,” Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.

The Gators blasted three home runs for five runs off Leiter, then ran up the score again the bullpen to keep pace and win 11-8. One Gators, in particular, was the top prospect’s Achilles heel.

Fabian Flashes

Gators center fielder Jud Fabian gave Florida the early boost the team needed to get going. Fabian belted bombs in back-to-back at-bats against Leiter to put the first four runs on the board for the Gators.

“Offensively, Jud is seeing the ball as good as he’s seen it all year long,” O’Sullivan said.

Fabian found his way on base three more times on the night. He walked twice and reached base on a fielder’s choice. He came around to score following his walk in the sixth inning, meaning he was involved in five of the 11 runs.

Fabian and the Gators put up seven runs against the Vandy starter–five earned. The Gators saw a new pitcher by the fifth inning.

Mace Gives Bullpen a Break

Tommy Mace returned to the starting role against Vanderbilt. He pitched deep into the game, eight innings to be exact, throwing 118 pitches. Normally, that’s a sign of a strong dominant outing–except, it was far from it.

Mace allowed seven runs, six earned, off 10 hits. Two of those hits were home runs, while another was a double. If it means anything, he struck out seven batters and didn’t allow a walk. Four innings went by before Mace saw his first scoreless frame. Then, he threw three-straight scoreless inning before allowing one more run in the eighth.

It was a rough night by most standards. But it could be argued, one would say, it was good enough to get the win. At least this one time, it was.

O’Sullivan took a positive stance on Mace’s outing despite the high number of runs.

“That was the gutsiest performance by Tommy Mace that I can remember,” he said. “He gave up six over the first four and a couple of rebound innings, but the way he settled in after the fourth inning was nothing short of remarkable. He battled. He made pitches. As the game went on, he got better. I think his sinker and slider in the middle innings were as good as they’ve been all year long… He was just outstanding tonight.”

Other Gator Notes

Third baseman Kirby McMullen and designated hitter Kris Armstrong hit home runs. McMullen’s was a solo shot, while Armstrong’s was a two-run dinger.

Josh Rivera had a three-hit night, driving in a run and scoring one.

Eight of the nine men in the lineup reached base at least once in the game. Right fielder Sterlin Tompson was the only Gator not to join the parade.

Jack Leftwich pitched the ninth to close out the game. He allowed a run but picked up the save anyway.

O’Sullivan was very pleased, expressing the importance of this win.

“All in all, it was a really good game against one of the best teams in the country,” he said. “We have an opportunity to win a series tomorrow. Hopefully, we grab some of the experiences that we learned tonight and move into tomorrow and play just as well tomorrow.”

The Gators return tomorrow with a chance to win the series. Hunter Barco is the starter for the Gators. This game is set to air on ESPN 2.

About Harrison Smajovits

Harrison is a sports coordinator at ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF. He served as a beat writer for Florida Gators football for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He also contributes to WRUF's Gainesville Sports Center segments and makes appearances on the Clash on Harp on Sports. Harrison has been a content writer for WRUF since January 2019 as well.

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