The Gators start their final home series of the season on a high note. They rallied to win a close game against rival Georgia, 4-3. Florida improves to 34-15 on the year overall and 16-9 in conference play.
As the season winds down, the Gators put themselves in a better position for the SEC Tournament. However, Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said the focus is simply on how they are performing and not the scores and results of other games.
“It’s that time of year where you’re obviously interested in scores,” O’Sullivan said, “but at the end of the day, the only concern we can have is really about ourselves. If we play the way we’re capable of, then we’ll put ourselves in a really good position regardless of what other teams do. Our focus needs to be on us and us only.”
Bats Go Toe to Toe
Scoring began in the second inning when Kendrick Calilao blasted a 2-0 pitch to dead center field for a solo home run. This 1-0 lead would be short lived.
Half an inning later, Georgia small balled its way into the lead. Third baseman Josh McAllister singled to left, scoring Cole Tate. In the following plate appearance, Garrett Blaylock slapped a sac-fly to center, allowing Ben Anderson to tag up and score from third.
Florida answered in the bottom of the inning. Left fielder Jacob Young knocked a sacrifice grounder to short, bringing home Sterlin Thompson. The score was then 2-2.
The fourth inning went by without much action. In the top of the fifth, Georgia took the lead back on an RBI single to left field by Connor Tate. Jacob Young once again kept Georgia’s lead short by ripping a 2-2 pitch into left-center field, plating Cory Acton.
Fast-forward to the bottom of the eighth, with runners on second and third and the game still tied, Josh Rivera stepped up to bat. He fouled a pitch off, took the next one for a strike, fouled three more off, and then took a pitch for a ball. A battle was on. Rivera came through on the seventh pitch of the at-bat to win the battle. He singled to left, sending home Kris Armstrong. The Gators led 4-3 and had a lead for the first time since the top of the third.
Georgia’s bats go silent in the ninth, and the Gators close out the opener with the win.
Tommy Mace started for the Gators in his usual Friday-night role. Mace pitched a quality start, allowing three runs in 6 2/3 innings of work and striking out 10.
O’Sullivan said he was satisfied with Mace’s outing.
“I thought he threw the ball really well,” he said. “Probably as good as he’s thrown it all year long. He battled, and Georgia is really good. You saw just a glimpse of some of their pitchers that they threw out there tonight, so it was a quality win for us.”
Trey Van Der Weide pitched the final out of the seventh before Jack Leftwich entered to finish the last two innings and pick up the win. Five of the six out by Leftwich were strikeouts.
O’Sullivan said he noticed how much Leftwich has embraced his new role.
“He’s just really confident right now,” he said. “He’s executing pitches at a high level. I think earlier in the year, in a situation like that, he may have been a little bit too fast. But he’s slowing the game down. It’s obvious he’s having a lot of fun. Just really, really pleased with how he’s been able to solidify the bullpen at the back end.”
The Gators return tomorrow with a chance to win the series. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m.