Monday, March 20, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 5 Florida vs Auburn Series Recap

The No. 5 Florida Gators (13-8, 0-3 SEC) had a rough weekend in their first SEC series of 2017 as the Auburn Tigers (17-5, 3-0 SEC) took all three games from them in Auburn. Here is a recap of each game.

Game 1 (March 17th)
In the series opener, the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-5, 0-1 SEC) were completely dismantled as the Auburn Tigers (15-5, 1-0 SEC) crushed them by a score of 14-3.

Making his first road start of the season, junior ace Alex Faedo (3-1, 2.93 ERA) was not his usual self. In 4.1 innings of work, he walked a career-high six batters while allowing six earned runs on just four hits. He threw a total of 106 pitches while striking out five Tigers and hitting a batter as well.

Auburn was up 3-1 in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and one out when Faedo was pulled. Coming in to relieve him was true freshman right-hander Kirby McMullen. From there, the game began to spiral out of control.

McMullen allowed an RBI single, hit a batter to score another run, struck out a batter, and then issued a walk to score another run. All of those runs were charged to Faedo and Auburn's lead increased to 6-1.

Having seen enough, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan pulled McMullen with the bases still loaded for junior left-hander Nick Horvath. Usually very good out of the pen, Horvath was not himself either in this game.

Auburn tagged him for four runs off of three hits and a passed ball. Half of those runs were charged to McMullen and the other half were on Horvath. After an Auburn fly out mercifully ended the inning, it was 11-1 Tigers. They had put up eight runs in the inning, which of course was the most Florida had allowed in any inning all season.

Tasked with finishing out the game and sparing the bullpen anymore labor was true freshman right-hander Nick Long. Entering in the sixth, he gave Florida three solid innings in a 56-pitch outing. He allowed three earned runs on six hits with one walk and one strikeout. As a mop-up man, he did his job.

Offensively, Florida was dreadful as they amassed just five total hits. They did lead this game at one point after scoring in the second inning, but Auburn would immediately knot things up in the bottom half of the frame. Aside from the second, the Gators scratched across one run in both the sixth and ninth innings.

Junior first baseman Christian Hicks was Florida's most productive hitter as he knocked in two runs this game. He had an RBI single in the second inning that scored Keenan Bell to make it 1-0 Florida and a ninth inning groundout that scored Ryan Larson to make it 14-3.

In the third inning, Dalton Guthrie recorded his lone hit of the contest with a single into right field. He would subsequently steal second base for his third swipe of the season, but would not score. He finished the game 1-3.

Florida had two extra-base hits in the game and they both came with the game already pretty much decided. Following the eight-run spot in the fifth, Jonathan India hit a two-out solo home run for his third long ball of the year to make it 12-2 Auburn. It would be his only hit as he went 1-4 on the night.

In the ninth inning, Ryan Larson led off with a pinch-hit triple before coming around to score two batters later. It was the second triple of his collegiate career and it helped raise his batting average to .375.

Rounding out what little offense Florida had was true freshman Andrew Baker. Making his first start as a position player in this series, Baker went 1-4 and notched his first career collegiate hit with a single to center field in the eighth inning.

Final Takeaway
This was by far one of the worst losses I have seen the Florida Gator baseball team suffer in a while. Before diving deeper into the heartbreak of Game 2, here are my final tidbits on this forgettable series opener:

  • Mike Rivera exited the game after being hit by a pitch in the seventh inning.
  • Auburn was only able to tie the game up in the second inning after Deacon Liput failed to turn an inning-ending double play. He would get at least one out to avoid an error, but the Tigers would capitalize with a game-tying double in the very next at-bat. 
  • Florida was fortunate to have even scored in the second inning, as Auburn left fielder Bowen McGuffin misplayed a fly ball with two outs that allowed Keenan Bell to reach second base.
  • This is the first time since 2015 that the Gators have lost their SEC opener.
  • To no one's surprise, this is the worst loss of season up to this point and the most runs that Florida has allowed in a game this year.
  • This is Florida's first double-digit loss since May 1, 2015, which was an 11-1 defeat to Georgia.
  • Auburn ace Keegan Thompson (4-0, 0.78 ERA) was lights out against the Gators. He tossed 6.1 innings, allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits, struck out eight, walked two, and hit one batter on 99 pitches thrown.
  • Five Auburn players had multiple hits. Jonah Todd went 2-4 with two doubles, a run scored, and two RBI's; Bowen McGuffen was 3-5 with a double, three runs scored and an RBI; Josh Anthony went 2-4 with an RBI; Jay Estes was 2-3 with two doubles, three runs scored, and two RBI's; and Will Holland went 2-4 with a a two-run home run in the third inning, two runs scored, and 4 RBI's.
  • Alex Faedo's consecutive scoreless streak ends at 23.1 innings.
  • Deacon Liput and JJ Schwarz were the only two Gators to draw walks in the game.

Game 2 (March 18th)
In Game 2, the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-6, 0-2 SEC) suffered their first series loss of 2017 as the Auburn Tigers (16-5, 2-0 SEC) defeated them by a score of 2-1.

Brady Singer (2-1, 1.74 ERA) took the bump for Florida and did a good job eating up innings. The sophomore right-hander went seven strong and allowed just two earned runs on five hits while throwing 111 pitches. Singer was his own worst enemy in this game as he balked twice in the third inning to give Auburn their first run of the game.

The Tigers would tack on their second run via back-to-back doubles in the fourth, but after that Singer settled down and stymied their bats. When he departed from the game, it was 2-1 Auburn.

Handling the eighth inning was left-hander Andrew Baker. He worked a clean frame as he struck out the first two batters and induced a groundout to keep it a one-run game.

Despite having the pitching in this game, Florida again was plagued with an inept offense. For the second consecutive game, they totaled just five hits.

Nelson Maldonado and Christian Hicks were responsible for nearly all of the offense as both players had multiple hits in this game. Nelly went 2-4 with a seventh inning double and a run scored while Hicks went 2-4 with a pair of singles in the second and fifth innings.

The only other Gator to record a hit was again Ryan Larson, who went 1-2 with a walk and a single in the fifth inning.

Florida had a plethora of opportunities to take the lead in this game, but failed to capitalize. In both the fifth and seventh innings, they had the bases loaded with less than two outs. Here's how those scenarios played out:

No Outs in the Fifth Inning
Mark Kolozsvary grounds out to third base and Nelson Maldonado is gunned out at the plate on a force play for the first out. Deacon Liput fouls out for the second out. Andrew Baker grounds out to first base to end the inning.

One out in Seventh Inning
Up with the bases loaded again, Deacon Liput lines one to Auburn shortstop Luke Jarvis. He drops it, and decides to go to second base for the force out. With no time to get Liput at first base, Auburn catches Ryan Larson in a pickle. Fortunately for Florida, Larson was able to stay alive in the rundown long enough for Nelson Maldonado to score the first and only Gator run of the contest.

Final Takeaway
It was not a blowout, but still a demoralizing loss as the Gators suffered their first series defeat since the LSU series at the end of last year. Before looking at the painful conclusion in the series finale, here are my final tidbits on Game 2:

  • As stated previously, this is Florida's first series loss of the 2017 season.
  • Jonathan India was responsible for the only Gator error of the game as he made a throwing error to first base in the second inning.
  • It was a rough day at the plate for Florida's No. 3 and 4 hitters as JJ Schwarz went 0-4 with three strikeouts and Jonathan India went 0-4 with two strikeouts.
  • Casey Mize (3-0, 0.30 ERA) followed suit from Friday night and carved up the Gators on this Saturday afternoon. The sophomore went seven innings, allowed one unearned run on five hits, struck out eight Gators, and issued just one free pass to Ryan Larson.
  • Jay Estes and Luke Jarvis carried Auburn's offense in this game as they were responsible for all five of the Tigers' hits. Estes went 2-3 with a double and run scored while Jarvis went a perfect 3-3 with a double and RBI.
  • Nelly's double was his fourth of the season.
  • Mike Rivera did not play in this game because of his wrist.
  • A mental error hurt Florida in the eighth inning as Andrew Baker failed to look where Dalton Guthrie hit the ball as he stole second base. By the time the freshman realized that it was a fly out to center field, he had been doubled off for the second out of the inning.
  • Speaking of Guthrie, he served as the designated hitter in this game (shoulder soreness) while Christian Hicks played shortstop.
  • Mark Kolozsvary reached base in the fifth inning due to catcher's interference with the count 0-2. Catcher's interference is usually not seen all too often.

*All stats accredited to

Game 3 (March 19th)
In the series finale, the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-8, 0-3 SEC) suffered a walk off loss as the Auburn Tigers (17-5, 3-0 SEC) defeated them 6-5 to sweep the series.

Sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (3-0, 2.35 ERA) got the start for Florida and did his job in terms of getting deep into the game. Throwing 97 pitches, Kowar tossed six frames while allowing five runs (two earned) on six hits. He struck out five Tigers, issued three walks, and hit one batter.

Kowar had some misfortune strike in the bottom of the fourth inning with the Gators up 4-1. With the bases loaded, he induced a lazy fly ball to the shortstop that appeared to end the inning and the Auburn scoring threat.

Keep in mind, however, that it was Christian Hicks at short instead of Dalton Guthrie. As Hicks floated towards the ball, the wind took it and it dropped right beyond the reach of his glove. Two runs would score to cut the lead to 4-3.

Instead of the inning being over, it was still two outs with runners on second and third in a one-run ballgame. This error would affect Kowar, as he threw a wild pitch to the next batter that knotted up the game at four a piece.

After working past the debacle of a third inning, Kowar was again victimized by an error in the seventh inning. After giving up a leadoff triple, Kowar induced a ground ball that ate up third baseman Jonathan India. The runner on third did not score, but it was now first and third with nobody out.

This would be the end of Kowar's outing as he was pulled for Andrew Baker. Once Baker took over, the Tigers struck again, as Jonah Todd hit a sacrifice fly to knot the game up at five and erase Kowar's chance at his fourth win of the season.

Once the game was tied, Sully replaced Baker with sophomore right-hander Michael Byrne. He needed just one pitch to instigate an inning-ending double play. In the eighth, Byrne returned and notched one out via a fly out before his day was over.

In Byrne's place came Nick Horvath, who was pulled after giving up a hit to the lone batter he faced. With one out and a man on first base in a 5-5 game, Sully again went to the pen and called upon senior Frank Rubio to keep the game tied.

The senior gave up a hit to make it first and second for Auburn, but then settled down. He got a fly out for the second out, and a groundout to Deacon Liput to end the inning.

In the ninth inning, the game remained tied and Rubio was back out there. Senior catcher Blake Logan led off the inning with a single, so Florida had to prepare for bunt defense. Auburn did as the Gators expected and laid down a bunt to advance Logan to second base.

However, no one was there to field the bunt and Auburn now had runners on first and second with no one out. After a pinch runner entered for Logan at second base, the Gators again prepared their bunt defense. Auburn again laid down a bunt and Rubio fielded the ball and tried to go to third base with the throw.

The result was a spiked throw that got past India and skirted down the left field foul line. Pinch runner J.J. Shaffer easily came in to score and the Tigers had walked off with a 6-5 victory and a series sweep. This final play summed up the whole weekend for the Gators.

Offensively, Florida was ready to go in this game as they banged out eight hits and scored four runs in the third inning and one run in the fifth.

Two Gators had multiple hits in this contest. First was Jonathan India. Out of the three-hole, the sophomore finished the series on a high note as he went 2-4 with a double, two runs scored, an RBI, and his fourth stolen base of the season.

India's lone RBI knotted the score up at one a piece in the top of the second inning. Joining him in the multi-hit department was Deacon Liput, who went 2-4 with a double out of the nine-spot.

Concluding the Gator double brigade was true freshman Andrew Baker, who notched his first collegiate extra-base hit in the third inning of this game. He finished the game 1-4 with a walk and run scored.

Final Takeaway
This was both a tough loss and series sweep to stomach. Before I can even give an opinion on this weekend, here are my final tidbits on both the series finale and this Auburn series as a whole:

  • This is the first time that Auburn has swept Florida since 1987. That's 30 YEARS in the making.
  • This is the first time that Florida has been swept since the LSU series at the end of the 2013 season.
  • This is Florida's fifth one-run loss of the year.
  • Florida has still not won a road game in 2017. They are 0-6 outside of the Mac.
  • Florida committed a total of five errors in the series. Auburn committed two.
  • Deacon Liput's double was his fourth two-bagger of the year.
  • JJ Schwarz registered his lone hit of the series in this game as he went 1-3 with two RBI's in the third inning. He also notched his first stolen bag of the year on a double steal with Jonathan India. He finishes the series 1-10 with two RBI's, one walk, and four strikeouts.
  • Ryan Larson stole his third bag of the season in this game.
  • Both Christian Hicks and Nelson Maldonado had sacrifice flies in this game. Nelly's gave Florida a 4-1 advantage in the fourth while Hicks broke the tie in the fifth inning. The sac flies were Nelly's second and Hicks's third of the season, respectively.
  • In addition to his sac fly, Nelly also got the lone Gator bunt of the series down in the fifth inning. It was his first sac bunt of the year.
  • This is Florida's second walk off loss of the year (Jacksonville on February 21st).
  • Faedo, Singer, and Rubio all suffered their first losses of the season in this series.
  • Mike Rivera was back in action as he caught the series finale. He went 1-4 from the plate with a run scored and threw out a runner on a delayed steal in the sixth inning.
  • A total of 8,766 fans were in attendance for this weekend series.

*All stats accredited to

Looking Ahead
A sweep at the hands of an unranked opponent is definitely not how the No. 5 Florida Gators (13-8, 0-3 SEC) wanted to start SEC play. It can be expected that they will drop some in the polls and may even fall out of the Top 10 after such a disappointing weekend.

Putting this series in the rearview mirror now, the Gators will again be away from the friendly confines of the Mac as they head to Deland, Florida, to take on the Stetson Hatters (8-14). The Gators have won four straight games over the Hatters and have not lost to them since the 2007 season.

Florida will most likely go with a true freshman on the mound for this game. I am thinking it will be either Austin Langworthy, Garrett Milchin, or Nate Brown who receives the start. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The in-state contest can be seen on ESPN3 and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

For the weekend series, the good ole LSU Tigers (16-5, 3-0 SEC) are coming to town. Florida swept the Tigers when they came to the Mac in 2014, but struggled in Baton Rouge last season as they dropped two of three. This will be a real fun one to watch as my alma mater takes on my future law school in my favorite sport.

The probable weekend starters for Florida are the usual suspects. Alex Faedo will start Friday night, Brady Singer will start Saturday afternoon, and Jackson Kowar will start Sunday afternoon. LSU will counter with a combination of junior right-hander Alex Lange (3-1, 5.04 ERA), senior left-hander Jared Poche' (5-0, 0.25 ERA), and freshman right-hander Eric Walker (3-0, 2.67 ERA).

All the games can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network, while all but Game 2 can be seen on the SEC Network. Game 2 will be televised on ESPN2.

As for the Auburn Tigers (17-5, 3-0 SEC), they will most likely be ranked in the Top 25 once the new polls come out this week. They will head to Atlanta, Georgia, to play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12-6) before heading to Athens for their first SEC road series against the Georgia Bulldogs (8-13, 0-3 SEC).



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