Wednesday, March 23, 2016

UF Baseball: #1 Florida Edges Past #24 FAU

The #1 Florida Gators (22-1) have now won 16 games in a row after a slim 2-1 victory over the #24 FAU Owls (15-4).

Jackson Kowar got the start and allowed the only run of the game when FAU second baseman Stephen Kerr crushed the second pitch of the game over the left field wall for a lead off home run. After the homer, Kowar settled down and tossed 4.1 innings in which he scattered three total hits, struck out six, walked two, and hit a batter.

Stephen Kerr trotting around the bases after giving FAU an early 1-0 lead to start the game.

After Kowar's departure in the fifth, Florida would use five different relievers to grind out the win. The first Gator arm out of the bullpen was Frank Rubio. In his 1.1 innings of work, Rubio allowed one hit and one walk. He would actually receive his first collegiate win since Kowar did not throw the five innings needed to qualify for the victory stat.

After Rubio's departure, Scott Moss came on to pitch. The 6'5 lefty allowed a hit and struck out two batters before being pulled for Dane Dunning. Having thrown on Sunday as well, Dunning would get the bulk of relief work. He walked just one and struck out two batters in 1.2 innings.

In the ninth inning, Kirby Snead would relieve Dunning as a lefty specialist. After striking out FAU's Sean Labsan, Snead was pulled and Brady Singer induced two groundouts to end the game and earn the first save of his career.

Offensively, the Gators did all of their scoring through true freshmen in the bottom of the second inning. After Deacon Liput doubled with one out in the inning, Nelson Maldonado smoked a triple down the right field line to tie the game. As Maldonado came into third base, the throw deflected off of him and skirted toward the outfield.

Seeing an opportunity, Florida third base coach Craig Bell sent Maldonado home and the freshman hustled 90 more feet to score what would eventually be the deciding run of the ball game. Seeing a play like this had my heart racing and it took legitimately five minutes for my heart rate to return to normal.

Nelson Maldonado settling in the box just moments before he would give the Gators the lead and ultimately the win.

Besides Liput and Maldonado's extra base hits, the rest of the Gator offense was nonexistent last night. Leadoff man Dalton Guthrie was the only other batter to figure out FAU's pitching as he went 2-4 and stole his fifth bag of the year.

Final Takeaway:
Avoiding the upset, the #1 Florida Gators remain undefeated at home and will be embarking on a four-game road trip before returning to the Mac next weekend. Before previewing the Kentucky series this weekend, here are my final tidbits for last night's nail biter:

  • FAU outhit Florida five to four.
  • The Gator pitching staff struck out 11 Owl batters but also walked four. FAU's staff struck out just six Gator batters but walked only three.
  • FAU right fielder Brett Lashley went 2-4 in the contest.
  • FAU second baseman Stephen Kerr made an incredible diving catch on an infield pop up for the first out of the first inning.
  • Mike Rivera did not play in the game, as he is still recovering from a head injury he sustained in Sunday's game against Missouri.

Definitely refocused after last night, Florida is now 11-1 against teams from the state of Florida this year. With two days of rest upcoming, the Gators will now turn their attention to a road series with the Kentucky Wildcats (14-5, 2-1 in SEC play).

The pitching rotation will be the same as usual for the weekend. Ace Logan Shore will get the Friday night start, lefty A.J. Puk will get the Saturday afternoon start, and Alex Faedo will throw the 1 p.m. Sunday game. This will be a tough series as Kentucky is a very decent team. 

Taking two out of three games would be great, but of course a sweep would be fantastic! The first game is at 6:30 p.m. and all three games can be seen on the SEC Network.

As for FAU (2-1 in Sun Belt play), they return home to Boca Raton this weekend to take on the UAB Blazers (9-12, 2-1 in Sun Belt play). The first game is at 6:30 p.m. 

*All stats accredited to

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