Tuesday, April 25, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 10 Florida vs No. 18 South Carolina Series Recap

The No. 10 Florida Gators (27-13, 10-8 SEC) kept pace in the SEC East race with a series victory over the No. 18 South Carolina Gamecocks (24-15, 9-9 SEC) at the Mac. Here is a recap of each game!

Game 1 (April 20th)
In the series opener on Thursday night, the No. 10 Florida Gators (26-12, 9-7 SEC) edged the No. 18 South Carolina Gamecocks (23-14, 8-8) by a score of 1-0.

Junior ace Alex Faedo (6-1, 2.47 ERA) threw an absolute gem. Nearly going the distance, the right-hander tossed 8.2 shutout innings while scattering three hits. He struck out nine Gamecocks, walked four, and threw 125 pitches before being removed with a runner on first base and two outs.

In to get the save came sophomore closer Michael Byrne. He made sure no final rally would occur, as he needed just two pitches to induce the game-ending fly out. It was Byrne's seventh save of the 2017 campaign and gave Faedo his sixth victory of the season.

The Gators banged out five total hits while scoring the only run of the contest in the fifth inning. Junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie and true freshman designated hitter Keenan Bell led the way for Florida as the only two players with multiple hits on the night.

Guthrie went 2-4 with a double and his 10th stolen base of the year while Bell went 2-3 with the go-ahead RBI single in the fifth inning. He plated Christian Hicks, who accounted for the only other Gator hit in the game. The junior first baseman went 1-2 with a two-out double in the fifth inning, a walk, and the only run scored in the game.

Final Takeaway
This was a great opening win for the Gators in a crucial SEC series. Before recapping Game 2, here are my final tidbits on Florida's narrow victory:

  • Florida has now won seven straight home games over the Gamecocks.
  • This is the fourth time this year that Florida has won a game by a margin of 1-0.
  • This is the sixth time this season that Alex Faedo has thrown over 100 pitches in an outing.
  • Dalton Guthrie's double was his sixth of the year while Hicks's was his fifth.
  • Mark Kolozsvary had a sacrifice bunt in the third inning, which gives him three for the season.
  • Kolo also threw out his fifth baserunner of the year to end the eighth inning.
  • This is Keenan Bell's sixth multi-hit game of the year while it's Guthrie's 13th.
  • The only error of the game came against Florida in the seventh when JJ Schwarz misplayed a grounder with two outs.
  • Carlos Cortes, Madison Stokes, and Matt Williams were the only Gamecocks to notch a hit off of Faedo.
  • 3,254 fans were in attendance to see yet another dominant pitching performance from Faedo.

Game 2 (April 21st)
In a second straight night game on Friday, the No. 10 Florida Gators (26-13, 9-8 SEC) fell to the No. 18 South Carolina Gamecocks (24-14, 9-8 SEC) by a score of 4-2.

Sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (4-3, 1.94 ERA) took the mound and threw a decent game against the Gamecocks. He went 5.1 innings and allowed three earned runs on six hits. He struck out five, walked two, and hit one batter while throwing 101 pitches.

When Singer departed with one out in the sixth, Florida trailed 3-1 with runners on first and third. Coming on was junior left-hander Nick Horvath to face the left-handed hitting Matt Williams. After Williams bunted the second pitch of the at-bat, Horvath got the lead runner out at third and was then removed after successfully doing his job.

Now with two outs and runners on second and third, senior right-hander Frank Rubio was called upon to get Florida out of the jam. He did just that, inducing a groundout to end the threat. Rubio would get tagged for a run in the seventh, and left at the start of the eighth with the score 4-1 South Carolina. He finished with a stat line of one earned run on two hits in 1.1 innings.

In the eighth, true freshman right-hander Kirby McMullen entered and worked past a leadoff hit to throw a scoreless frame with one strikeout. In the ninth, another true freshman in Tyler Dyson took the bump. The 6'2 true freshman looked excellent as he sandwiched a groundout between two strikeouts to keep the game close going into the bottom of the ninth.

Florida was essentially shut down by Gamecock starter Will Crowe (4-3, 3.25 ERA) as they scored just two runs on eight hits. Crowe was sensational as he went seven innings and allowed one earned run on six hits. He struck out three batters and threw 116 pitches before being replaced in the eighth.

Like the night before, two Gators again had multiple hits. JJ Schwarz went 2-4 and scored in the ninth on a balk. Back at it again, Keenan Bell turned in a  2-4 performance with an RBI single in the second.

Four other Gators accounted for the rest of the team's base knocks. True freshman center fielder Austin Langworthy went 1-4, sophomore right fielder Nelson Maldonaldo went 1-3 with a run scored and a walk, Christian Hicks went 1-4, and junior catcher Mark Kolozsvary went 1-4 with a double.

The Gators had opportunities in the both the eighth and ninth innings, but could not capitalize. They loaded the bases in the eighth with no outs, but could not plate a run against 6'2 flame-throwing closer Tyler Johnson.

In the ninth, Florida got the tying run to the plate, but could not muster up enough offensive power to get past Johnson.

Final Takeaway
Just like last weekend against Vandy, Florida suffered a tough two-run loss behind solid pitching from their opponent. Before recapping the rubber match, here are my final tidbits on the Gator defeat in Game 2:

  • Kolo's double was his third of the year.
  • Keenan Bell registered his seventh multi-hit game of the year. For JJ, it was his eighth.
  • South Carolina had two guys with multiple hits. Carlos Cortes went 2-5 with a two-run home run in the first inning and Jacob Olson went 2-4 with an RBI double in the sixth inning.
  • Gamecock closer Tyler Johnson is the real deal. He sat at 95 MPH the whole night and at one point touched 101!
  • Florida remained perfect defensively in the game while South Carolina registered one error.
  • 4,384 fans showed out for this Friday night contest at the Mac.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com

Game 3 (April 22nd)
In the rubber match, the No. 10 Florida Gators (27-13, 10-8 SEC) used late-inning heroics to stun the No. 18 South Carolina Gamecocks (24-15, 9-9 SEC) and win both the game and the series by a score of 7-5.

Sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (6-0, 3.90 ERA) had the ball and was roughed up a tad in his 6.1 innings of work. He gave up five earned runs on 11 hits, struck out four, and balked TWICE. Both of his balks resulted in Gamecock runs as the first one occurred in the first inning and the second in the fifth inning.

Despite Kowar getting hit relatively hard, Florida remained in the game. It was after he served up a two-run homer to Chris Cullen in the seventh inning that Kowar was pulled from the game. He was the only Gator starter to not top 100 pitches this weekend as he was at 98 when head coach Kevin O'Sullivan gave him the hook.

With Florida down 5-3, Nick Horvath came in with one out and a runner on first. He needed just one pitch to generate an inning-ending double play. In the eighth, Horvath allowed a leadoff single before recording the first out on a sacrifice bunt.

His day would again end after a bunt as true freshman right-hander Garrett Milchin entered. He needed just two pitches for a groundout and a fly out to end the eighth. When Florida took a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the eighth, Michael Byrne's came on to clinch the series.

After allowing a leadoff single, Byrne used a double play and a fly out to earn his eighth save of year and win the series for Florida. Milchin was awarded his third win of both the season and his collegiate career despite throwing just two pitches in the entire game.

Offensively, Florida had just seven hits and scored a run in the second, third, and sixth innings before lowering the boom and scoring four in the eighth.

Before highlighting any Gator batters, here's how that epic eighth inning went down:

Eighth Inning
With Florida down 5-3, Austin Langworthy singled to right field to leadoff the inning. Ryan Larson then drew a walk. South Carolina made a pitching change and their reliever proceeded to walk Nelson Maldonaldo on four pitches.

Just like last night, the bases were loaded with no outs in the eighth inning. Except this time, Florida had their best hitter stepping to the plate out of the six-hole. That's right, JJ Schwarz came to the plate with the series literally hinging on his at-bat.

After taking one pitch, JJ blasted the next offering he saw two rows in front of me in the left field bleachers for a grand slam! It was JJ's only hit of the game, but could not have come at a bigger moment!

Offensive Performers
Seven different Gators had a hit in this game. Out of the two-hole, Dalton Guthrie went 1-4. Behind him in the three-hole, Austin Langworthy went 1-3 with a run scored and a walk. In the cleanup spot, senior left fielder Ryan Larson went 1-3 with two runs scored, an RBI, and a walk.

In the five-hole, Nelson Maldonaldo went 2-3 with a game-tying home run in the sixth inning, two runs scored, an RBI, and a walk. After him, JJ hit his grand slam to plate four including himself while also drawing two walks. Rounding out the offense from the nine-hole, Mark Kolozsvary went 1-4.

Final Takeaway
As he has done before, JJ Schwarz powered the Gators to victory with a clutch grand slam. Although he has struggled as points this season, JJ proves time and time again how valuable he is to this Florida Gator baseball club. Hopefully this grand slam puts him on a hot streak for the remaining 15 games of the regular season.

After yet another gritty series with the Gamecocks, Florida proved victorious and remains just two games behind the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (28-13, 12-6 SEC) for first place. Before looking ahead to Florida's next SEC series, here are my final tidbits on the both the series clincher and the South Carolina series as a whole:

  • This is Florida's fifth straight series win over the Gamecocks. I am not going to let last year's series interrupt the streak, as the finale up in Columbia was rained out with the series at 1-1.
  • Sully is 20-9 against South Carolina in the regular season.
  • The Gators have not dropped a home series to the Gamecocks since 2011.
  • This is the fourth home series in five attempts that Florida has won over South Carolina and their seventh series victory over South Carolina in Sully's ten seasons.
  • JJ's grand slam puts him at five long balls on the year, while Nelly's gives him three.
  • Both teams finished with just one error a piece in the series.
  • 3,604 dedicated fans braved the heat and showed up for this hot Saturday afternoon game.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com

Looking Ahead
With a second straight (and third overall) SEC series victory under their belt, the now No. 8 Florida Gators (27-13, 10-8 SEC) will prepare for a road trip to Athens to take on the struggling Georgia Bulldogs (16-25, 5-13 SEC). The Dawgs are in last place in the SEC East and are coming off of a series loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores (25-16, 9-9 SEC). Prior to winning Game 2 of the series, Georgia had lost five straight.

Florida has won three straight series over Georgia, with their last series loss taking place in Athens during the 2013 season. The Gators need to avoid playing down to their competition if they wish to extend their streak to four years. Georgia has beaten just one ranked opponent (at the time No. 9 Auburn) this season but may just be saving their best three games of the season for the hated Gators.

Florida has struggled on the road predominantly this season, posting a 7-7 record away from the Mac. Even though Foley Field holds just 3,291 and the students will be preoccupied with exams does not mean Florida will not have to grind to win (and even sweep) this series. It should be a good one, and hopefully I can make some time in my busy weekend to catch the games.

The Gators are now back on the normal weekend series schedule of Friday through Sunday. Like usual for Florida's probables, Alex Faedo will get the Friday start, Brady Singer will throw Saturday, and Jackson Kowar will close things out on Sunday.

As for Georgia, they will probably counter with junior right-hander Chase Adkins (5-4, 3.43 ERA), senior left-hander Andrew Gist (2-3, 3.99 ERA), and possibly freshman right-hander Zac Kristofak (2-1, 4.02 ERA).

The games are scheduled for 7 p.m on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. on Sunday. All of them can be seen on the SEC Network+ and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

As for now No. 21 ranked South Carolina (24-15, 9-9 SEC), they will return to Columbia for a huge series against the No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats (28-13, 12-6 SEC). Florida should be rooting for the Gamecocks, as a potential sweep or series win along with Orange and Blue success in Athens could put these two right at the top of the SEC East standings.



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