Monday, February 20, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 2 Florida vs William & Mary Series Recap

Gator baseball is back! To me it feels like Christmas as the Orange and Blue opened up their 2017 campaign against the William & Mary Tribe this weekend.

I'll get this out of the way right now. With me working two jobs, I will be writing my baseball recap articles in a different format. As opposed to writing after each and every weekend game, I am going to group them together into a series recap which I have done for previous contests last season. This will be more effective and will keep all the game information in one central location.

With that being said. Let's get started!

Game 1 (February 17th)
The No. 2 Florida Gators (1-0) opened up 2017 on the right note with a 5-4 comeback victory over the William & Mary Tribe. At one point Florida trailed 4-1 in the game, but two-run spots in both the fifth and seventh innings helped propel the Gators past the Tribe.

Junior ace Alex Faedo (0-0) toed the mound as the new proclaimed Florida ace and earned a no decision in his 4.2 innings of work. Throwing 80 pitches, Faedo allotted four hits and four earned runs, walked three, struck out seven, and hit one batter. He exited the game with the Gators down 2-1 in the fifth with Tribe runners on first and second.

Alex Faedo
Relieving him was junior Nick Hovath, who gave up a two-out triple on a ball that passed the outstretched glove of newly converted outfielder Blake Reese. After the triple though, Horvath settled down and retired the next four batters. He struck out one.

When the seventh inning rolled around, sophomore Michael Byrne replaced Horvath. Working three fantastic relief innings of one-hit ball, Byrne struck out four and kept the Tribe bats quiet as he was awarded the first Gator pitching win of the season.

Offensively, the Gators banged out eight hits and scored in the first, fifth, and seventh innings. Junior designated hitter JJ Schwarz led the way as he went 1-3 with a game-high 3 RBI's and a hit by pitch.

In the leadoff spot, junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie went 2-5 with a run scored and a stolen base. One of his hits was a beautiful bunt single in the seventh inning. Right behind Guthrie, sophomore second baseman Deacon Liput went 1-4 with an RBI fielder's choice in the second inning.

At the bottom of the lineup, sophomore center fielder Blake Reese went 2-2 with a run scored and one walk before being replaced in the ninth inning by Ryan Larson.

Also worth mentioning is how Florida took the lead in the seventh. Though he had a rough day at the plate, sophomore Jonathan India reached base via a throwing error. Ending up at second as a result of the error, India advanced to third on a JJ Schwarz groundout that tied the game.

Not too long later, a ball skipped by Tribe catcher Hunter Smith and India dashed towards the plate. The tag from reliever Nick Raquet was not in time as India dove into home head first and Florida had gained their first lead of the game.

Final Takeaway
This was Florida's fourth straight win on Opening Night and set the tone for a monster offensive outing in the following game. Before recapping Game 2, here are my final tidbits on the game:

  • The audience on the Mac was announced at 5,402, making it the third largest opening night crowd in Gator history.
  • In addition to Guthrie, Christian Hicks, Nelson Maldonaldo, and Mike Rivera all stole their first base of the season in this game.
  • With this close win, the Gators have now won four straight games on Opening Night!

All stats accredited to

Game 2 (February 18th)
In Game 2 of the series, the No. 2 Florida Gators (2-0) captured their first series victory of 2017 with a dominating 8-1 victory over the William & Mary Tribe (0-2).

Taking the mound for the Gators was sophomore flamethrower Brady Singer (1-0). He put on a very good showing in his first opening weekend start as he allowed one earned run on three hits in five innings pitched. He struck out six, walked none, and hit two batters on his way to his first victory of 2017. He threw 82 pitches in the contest.

After Singer was pulled at the start of the sixth, true freshman Austin Langworthy came on in relief. The local product out of Williston was phenomenal. He tossed 2.2 innings, allowed no runs on three hits, and struck out two.

After Langworthy, senior sidearmer Frank Rubio came in for just one out. It was a big one though as Rubio induced a groundout on two pitches with runners on first and third in eighth. Once Frank did his job, another true freshman in Andrew Baker donned the rubber. The 5'9 lefty shut the door perfectly as he struck out two and recorded his first collegiate putout to clinch the series victory.

At one point Florida trailed this game 1-0 in the second inning, but that would not be for long. The Gator offense exploded for nine runs and 13 hits in this game as the Orange and Blue scored in the second, third, seventh, and eighth innings.

The top four of the lineup balled out with all but Dalton Guthrie accumulating multiple hits. In the two-hole, Deacon Liput went 2-5 with a double and two runs scored. Behind him, Jonathan India bounced back from a hitless night as he went 3-5 with the first Gator home run of the year, three RBI's, and two runs scored.

In the cleanup spot, JJ Schwarz was a perfect 3-3 as he scored twice, walked once, and logged his lone RBI on a sac fly in a three-run third inning. Also worth mentioning is seven-hole hitter Ryan Larson. The senior outfielder went just 1-4 but his lone hit was a big one as he singled in two to give the Gators a 2-1 lead in the second inning. He also stole his first bag of the season in the second as well.

The final hitter I'll mention is freshman Keenan Bell. Making his first collegiate batting appearance as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning, Bell smoked a ball into left field to record both his first hit and RBI as a Florida Gator. It had to be a special moment for him I'm sure!

Final Takeaway
Compared to the close contest on Friday, the No. 2 Florida Gators were in control most of the way during this game. Before recapping the series finale, here are my final tidbits for the series clincher:

  • The first Gator error of 2017 occurred in this game as JJ Schwarz made an errant throw to Brady Singer covering first base in the fourth inning. For perspective, JJ started at first base in this game.
  • India's homer came in the eighth inning with Florida well in control and with one runner on base.
  • In addition to pitching, Austin Langworthy also got to hit in the game. He went 1-2 with his first collegiate hit coming via a single in the sixth inning. He also stole his first collegiate base shortly thereafter.

Game 3 (February 19th)
In the series finale, the No. 2 Florida Gators (3-0) capped off opening weekend with an 11-6 victory over the William & Mary Tribe (0-3). With this win, the Gators earned their first sweep of the 2017 campaign.

Making his first Sunday start, sophomore righty Jackson Kowar (1-0) got the job done. In 5.2 innings of work, Kowar allowed three runs (one earned) on two hits. He struck out 10 Tribe batters while walking just one. After 84 pitches and a small Tribe rally in the sixth, Kowar's fantastic day was over.

Relieving Kowar was Andrew Baker on a consecutive day of work. He was again very effective as he allowed one hit in 1.1 innings of relief while striking out two. After Baker, fellow true freshman Nate Brown entered the contest in the eighth inning.

He had a rough debut to say the least, as he was tagged for three earned runs on three hits and walked a batter. However, he did strike out two hitters. Fortunately, the game was well in hand as Florida led 11-3 when Brown entered the game. After getting the nerves are out of his system, it can safely be assumed Brown will be lights out as the season progresses.

The ninth inning was a two-man task as true freshman Tyler Dyson needed just 10 pitches to dispose of the first two Tribe batters. He wouldn't see the end of the inning though, as Coach Kevin O'Sullivan opted to go with another true in Nick Long for the final out. After walking a batter, Long registered a strikeout for the final out and the series sweep.

Florida's offense concluded this series with a bang as the Gators put up 11 runs on 12 hits. They scored once in the first inning, put up six in the second, and also scored two runs a piece in the fourth and seventh innings. At one point they led the game 9-0.

Four Gators had multiple hits in the finale. Leadoff man Dalton Guthrie went 2-3 with a leadoff double, and three runs scored. He would leave the game in the fifth inning, but only because Sully was resting him.

The next multi-hit man in the lineup was junior designated hitter Mike Rivera. He went 2-3 with two RBI's and a run scored. Right behind him was the leading man of the day in true freshman Austin Langworthy. He was an offensive monster as he went 3-4 with both a double and his first collegiate home run in that six-run second inning. He plated two runs while scoring twice himself.

Behind Langworthy, fellow true freshman Keenan Bell swung the bat nearly as well. He went 2-4 and also hit his first collegiate home run as he drove in two runs, scored twice, and stole his first collegiate bag. Rounding out the Gator lineup is three-hole man Deacon Liput.

He went just 1-5, but his lone hit was a big one as he drilled a three-run bomb over the right field fence in the second inning to give Florida a 7-0 advantage. It was his first homer of the 2017 season as well.

Final Takeaway
The No. 2 Florida Gators flexed their muscles in this series as they pounded the Tribe in two of the three games. Before previewing the week ahead, here are my tidbits for the series finale:

  • Bell's first career homer came in the seventh inning with a runner on base.
  • Though he went hitless, Jonathan India still contributed as he drove in the first run of the game via a sacrifice fly. He scored once, was hit by a pitch, and drew a walk as well.
  • Dating back to the 2015 season, the Florida Gators have now won 32 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents after this weekend sweep.
  • Christian Hicks stole his second bag of the season in this game.
  • The Gators were a tad sloppy on the left side of the infield today as both Dalton Guthrie and Christian Hicks made errors. These would not come back to haunt Florida though.

Looking Ahead
The Gators will be back in action this Tuesday as they head to Jacksonville (2-1) to take on the Jacksonville Dolphins. They will then meet the Dolphins at the Mac on Wednesday to conclude the weekday mini-series.

After Jacksonville, the Gators will receive their first real test of the season as the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes (2-1) come to town. The Gators won the series in Gainesville two years ago and have not dropped a series to the 'Canes since my freshman year in 2014.

This will be a fun series with a lot of future MLB talent on the field. I am blessed to be ushering all three games and cannot wait to see what incredible moments will arise during this year's meeting.

I will try to write about the Jacksonville games this week depending how work goes. If I am unable to, keep an eye out for these series recap articles every Sunday/early Monday morning. I am very glad that Gator baseball is back! I know it is going to yet again be another fun season!



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