Thursday, March 9, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 2 Florida vs No. 24 FGCU Midweek Series Recap

For the first time since 2013, the Florida Gators were swept in their season series against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Playing one game a piece in both Fort Myers and Gainesville, the No. 2 Gators (10-4) dropped both contests to the No. 24 Eagles (12-2) by scores of 7-3 and 3-2, respectively. Here's how it all went down.

Game 1 (March 7th)
With JetBlue Park as the venue, the No. 2 Florida Gators (10-3) fell to the No. 24 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (11-2) by a score of 7-3.

Sophomore right-hander Michael Byrne (1-2, 1.89 ERA) got the start and ran into trouble in the fourth inning when the Eagles put up a four-spot. A two-out error coupled with a bases-clearing triple from FGCU's Julio Gonzalez allowed the Eagles to take a 5-1 advantage and never look back.

Byrne's start was over after 96 pitches and five innings. He allowed five runs (one earned) on seven hits, walked one batter, and struck out four. He would inevitable receive his second loss of 2017.

Four pitchers succeeded Byrne and they were all true freshmen. First was Andrew Baker. He entered in the sixth inning, walked two, got an out via a sacrifice bunt, then gave up back-to-back RBI singles before he was pulled with the score at 7-2.

Relieving Baker was 6'5 righty Garrett Milchin, who worked the most relief innings of anyone. Holding down the rest of the sixth and the entire seventh, Milchin struck out three and retired all five batters he faced.

After Milchin, 6'7 lefty Cole Maye entered for his second collegiate appearance. It was a rough one. He gave up two straight hits, recorded one out from a fielder's choice, and then hit a batter to load the bases. He was quickly given the hook for Nick Long.

The Sarasota product made the most of his opportunity and saved the Gators from an even more embarrassing defeat. He struck out both batters he faced to keep it a four-run ball game.

The Gators logged eight hits in this game and scored the first run of the contest in the third inning. They would later tack on one run in both the fifth and eighth innings, but could never score in bunches.

Two Gators had multiple hits. First was Keenan Bell. Continuing to swing a hot stick, the true freshman outfielder went 2-4 with a pair of singles out of the five-hole. Second was Deacon Liput. Out of the eight-hole, the sophomore second baseman went 2-3 with a double and two runs scored. Keep in mind he accounted for more than half of the run total that Florida put up in this game.

Since I am halfway there, I might as well mention the other four Gators who had hits. Dalton Guthrie went 1-4 out of the leadoff spot with an RBI and a run scored. The junior shortstop plated the first run while scoring the final one in the eighth inning. That occurred when sophomore Blake Reese came in to pinch-hit and smacked a double on the first pitch of the at-bat.

In the four-hole, junior first baseman JJ Schwarz went 1-4 with a single in the second inning. The final Gator with a hit was junior catcher Mark Kolozsvary. He went 1-2 with an RBI single in the fifth inning to trim the lead to 5-2. He also had Florida's ONLY WALK of the game. Yet again in limited playing time, Kolo continues to get the job done. My hat goes off to him!

Final Takeaway
Shock would be a good word to describe this one. Or maybe not due to some past recent midweek road struggles with Jacksonville (6-8) and UCF (11-3). Before recapping the heartbreaker at home, here are my final tidbits on the loss in Fort Myers:

  • This loss ends Florida's five-game winning streak over FGCU which started in 2014.
  • This is the first time EVER that the Gators have lost to the Eagles in Fort Myers.
  • Reese's double was his second of the year while Liput's was his third.
  • Jonathan India was responsible for the lone error of the game.
  • Eagles redshirt junior pitcher Mario Leon (1-1, 3.77 ERA) was marvelous in this game as he shut down the Gators. He threw seven strong innings while allowing two earned runs on six hits, walking none, and striking out three.
  • It could have been much worse as the Eagles left nine runners on base compared to Florida's four. Conversely, the Gators struck out nine Eagles while the Eagles struck out four Gators.
  • Florida was the only Top 25 team to lose on Tuesday.
  • Florida remains winless on the road as they are now 0-3.

Game 2 (March 8th)
Game 2 brought the midweek series to Gainesville, a place where the Gators were 10-0. After tonight, that had changed. In heartbreaking fashion, the No. 2 Florida Gators (10-4) lost to the No. 24 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (12-2) by a score of 3-2 for their first loss at McKethan Stadium in 2017.

True freshman lefty Austin Langworthy made his first collegiate start as the Gators sought to split the series. Throwing 3.2 innings, he gave up three earned runs on five hits while striking out six and walking two.

It was a valiant effort from Langworthy, who would eventually be pegged with the first loss of his college career. He was at 98 pitches when Kevin O'Sullivan gave him the hook. The Eagles led 3-1 at that point in the game.

Relieving Langworthy was fellow true freshman Kirby McMullen. In his second ever collegiate appearance, McMullen shined. He allowed just one hit, walked one, and struck out four in his two innings of work.

After a stellar outing from McMullen, a Gator veteran finally saw the mound as Nick Horvath took over with two outs in the sixth inning. The junior lefty was effective in 1.1 innings as he gave up just one hit and struck out one batter.

Taking on the last two innings was another true freshman in Tyler Dyson. He was nothing short of great as he retired all six batters he faced and struck out three of them.

Florida scored in the first inning when Blake Reese came across on a wild pitch, but then the offense went dormant until the ninth inning. The Gators had just five hits in this game with most of them coming in the final frame.

Since no Gator had multiple hits, I am going to jump into how the ninth inning went down:

Ninth Inning
Down 3-1, Florida had the heart of the order up to bat. First was JJ Schwarz. Hitless the whole night, JJ fell behind 0-2 before belting a ball over the left center field fence for his first home run of 2017. It was a great confidence boost for JJ and cut the Eagles' lead to one.

Following Schwarz was Nick Horvath, who entered in Keenan Bell's spot when he came in to pitch. He stuck out swinging for the first out of the ninth. Next up was pinch hitter Mark Koloszvary, whose job was basically to hit a bomb.

Falling behind 0-2 like JJ, Kolo fought and ended up lining a single into left field. The Gators still had life. Now sophomore outfielder Nelson Maldonado was up. He had one hit in the game already, but could not duplicate that success as he flew out to left field on an 0-2 count.

The game was now in the hands of Jonathan India, who had not started this game originally. On top of India's power threat, the gears got going once Sully inserted speedster Andrew Baker as a pinch runner for Koloszvary. This was the first time Baker had entered a game in a non-pitching situation.

India fell behind 0-2 and Eagle senior closer Sterling Koerner picked off to first base as least six times during the at-bat. India battled and evened the count at 2-2. With Baker still at first, India hit a blast to right center that looked like it would be extra bases and (more importantly) tie the game.

However, it was not meant to be. Darting out of center field with his outstretched glove was redshirt junior Gage Morey. He dove and nabbed the ball before it hit the ground to take away extra bases and secure the sweep over Florida. The Eagles were ecstatic, they had come into one of the premier stadiums in college baseball and beaten the No. 2 team in the country.

Final Takeaway
It had to feel like this was inevitable with Florida's constant midweek struggles. Of course though, a Gator loss at home is nearly unfathomable. To an SEC team or Miami I could have saw it, but not to FGCU. However, I will say this is one of the better FGCU teams that the program has fielded. After all, they are 11-2.

Before looking ahead to hopefully a more successful weekend series, here are my final tidbits on the Gators' first home loss of 2017:

  • This is the first time since February 27th, 2014, that the Florida Gators have lost a game in Gainesville to FGCU. That game was decided by one run as well.
  • Since they started meeting on the diamond in 2010, Florida now holds an 8-4 advantage over FGCU when they play at the Mac.
  • At least this time Florida was not the only Top 25 team to lose as both the No. 7 LSU Tigers (9-4) and No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels (8-5) fell as well.
  • For those wondering, Dalton Guthrie (1-4), true freshman Garrett Milchin (1-3), and Nelson Maldonado (1-4) were the only Gators with hits prior to the ninth inning.
  • This is the first time Florida has been swept in a midweek series since UCF beat them on Tuesday, April 5th, and Wednesday, April 20th, during the 2011 season.
  • Florida's 42-game regular season home winning streak against non-conference opponents has been snapped.
  • With Morey's catch as the finishing piece, Eagle closer Sterling Koerner notched his fourth save of 2017.

*All stats accredited to

Looking Ahead
There are definitely some questions stirring in the Gator clubhouse with the offense accounting for just five runs in two games against Florida Gulf Coast. However, it is still very early in the season and the Gators tend to wipe away their midweek woes when the weekends roll around.

In their final non-conference weekend series of 2017, the Florida Gators will play host to the Seton Hall Pirates (6-6). The weekend probables will be Alex Faedo (2-0, 1.77 ERA) on Friday night, Brady Singer (2-0, 1.00 ERA) on Saturday afternoon, and Jackson Kowar (3-0, 2.45 ERA) on Sunday afternoon.

Every game cane be seen on the SEC Network+ and also heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network. The start times are 6:30 p.m. for Friday, 4 p.m. for Saturday, and 1 p.m. for Sunday.

As for Florida Gulf Coast (11-2), they return to Fort Myers with serious momentum as they prepare to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes (5-6) in a three-game set. The first pitch times for these games are 6:30 p.m., 6 p.m., and 1 p.m.



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