Hunter Barco undoubtedly ate his Weaties this morning. In a special edition of Breakfast with Barco, the lefty led the Gators to a 13-1 victory over Mississippi State all before noon in Hoover, Alabama in the second game of SEC tournament play. Along with Barco’s stellar performance, Florida took no prisoner at the plate. Each Florida starter recorded a hit in the game and totaled 18 hits. This explosion at the plate comes after hitting just five in Tuesday’s win over Kentucky.
Power at the Plate
Florida attacked the plate quickly and often off the arms of Bulldog right handers Brandon Smith and Cam Tullar recording the first nine runs in the first three innings. Leadoff hitter Jacob Young led things off with a double to left center and made it home a few pitches later on a wild pitch. Mississippi State’s sole run of the game came in the bottom of the first, with a single from first baseman Luke Hancock to score right fielder Tanner Allen.
JY leads off with a hustle double into the left-center gap! pic.twitter.com/iNQelVUHYw
— Florida Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) May 26, 2021
The Gators kept firing in the second adding three more runs on the board. Shortstop Josh Rivera bursted through his hitting slump with a single followed up by another single from catcher Mac Guscette who has returned in the postseason from injury. With runners on the corners Young smacked a ball to deep center to bring Rivera home from third bringing the score to 2-1 Gators. A single from Nathan Hickey who started today’s game at third base and a walk for centerfielder Jud Fabian loaded the bases. Two outs away, but Kris Armstrong didn’t seem to mind. Armstrong launched a single to right field, driving in both Young and Hickey.
Florida Thrives in the Third:
Armstrong was the work horse of the day for the Gators and was a new addition to the lineup after his absence was felt in the five hit game just a day ago. The designated hitter went 3-4 at the plate and four RBIs.
By the end of the third inning, Florida had kicked the door down. This left the Bulldogs almost hopeless for a rally. A leadoff home run for right fielder Sterlin Thompson sparked the hitting spree. Thompson marked just one of the ten batters sent to the plate in the third. The Gators added five runs and recorded six hits in the inning. Armstrong and Young added to their hitting spree with a double and single respectively.
Florida added the final four runs in the seventh inning, reaching the mercy run designated for tournament play.
Barco’s Best to Date
Today’s outing marks the longest and perhaps Hunter Barco’s best outing as a Gator. The lefty stretched all seven innings and didn’t realize he had thrown a complete game after retiring the final batter in the seventh inning.
“I had no idea there were run-rules in college baseball. That was new for me.” Barco said.
Even with two strikeouts, he allowed just four hits and one run on the day on short rest. A key for Barco and his success on the day according to Coach Kevin O’Sullivan was his left on left approach to stay low and inside.
“The first inning they did a really good job of hitting. I could tell what they were trying to do, they were trying to go the other way and that’s why they were staying on the sliders,” Barco said. “After the first inning, I tried to bust them in a little bit to get them off balance and that got a lot of weak contact.”
Next up, the Gators will take on the winner of the Tennessee/Alabama matchup on Thursday. First pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. CT (6:30 ET), as Franco Aleman is set to take the mound for Florida.