The No. 5 Florida Gators (35-14) saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end with a 15-10 loss to the No. 23 South Florida Bulls (38-10) at the Mac tonight.
True freshman Garrett Milchin (4-2, 2.39 ERA) made just his second start and did fairly well. In two innings of work, he allowed two earned runs on two hits while walking two batters. When he exited before the third inning, Florida was down 2-1. Then the wheels came off.
True freshman Nate Brown entered the game and walked three batters while also giving up an RBI single. He was pulled with the bases loaded and USF up 3-1 after not recording a single out. In his place came senior sidearmer Frank Rubio.
It only got worse from here. Frank got the first out with a groundout, but it was now 4-1 USF. Back-to-back hits would make it 6-1 before Frank got the second out. The fourth hit of the inning would push the lead to 8-1 before a groundout ended the madness. Four of those six runs that came across in the third inning were charged to Brown.
Rubio would go 2.1 innings with just one strikeout before being pulled with a runner on second base and one out in the fifth inning. It was 8-2 at this point when junior left-hander Nick Horvath toed the rubber. An error from second baseman Blake Reese would make it 9-2, but the run would be unearned.
After working a fairly clean fifth, Horvath would hit a brick wall in the sixth. He gave up a leadoff home run and two straight doubles as the USF lead grew to 11-3. The game was half completed and there was no rain in sight, the Gators were in trouble.
Horvath was pulled for true freshman Tyler Dyson, who came out of the gate with two strikeouts and worked past a walk to throw a clean inning. Like Horvath though, Dyson met his end in the very next inning. In the seventh, he gave up a two-run homer that upped the advantage to 13-3. Two consecutive walks later and he was out of the game for true freshman Kirby McMullen.
The Ocala product saved Dyson's ERA as he used a strikeout and a fielder's choice to escape the frame. In the eighth, McMullen walked the bases loaded. However, he was able to emerge unscathed to give Florida's pitching just their third scoreless frame of the night. He was the only Gator pitcher to not allow a run as he struck out two and walked three in his 1.2 innings of relief.
In the ninth, the fifth true freshman in Austin Bodrato took the mound for Florida. He walked four batters in the inning and gave up two runs to give USF their final total of 15 and a 10-run lead entering the bottom half of the inning. In all this chaos, Garrett Milchin would be pinned with his second collegiate loss.
In most circumstances, Florida scoring 10 runs would all but guarantee victory. When it comes to these midweek games though, the Orange and Blue always seem to forget one of the three phases of baseball (pitching, batting, and defense).
The Gators banged out 12 hits, but only scored a run in the second, fourth, and fifth innings. They put up two in the eighth, and five in the ninth to make this game look closer than it actually was. The ninth inning rally is not even worth an in-depth look as the Gators still came up short by a substantial margin. So let's get right into the offensive dignitaries.
Three Gators had multiple hits in this slugfest. At the top of the lineup, senior left fielder Ryan Larson went 2-6 with two RBI's. Down in the five-hole, sophomore third baseman Jonathan India went 2-3 with a double, a solo home run, a sacrifice fly, two runs scored, two RBI's, and a walk. Rounding out the multi-hit crew from the nine-hole, sophomore Blake Reese went 2-3 with two runs scored, a team-high three RBI's, and two walks
For the Gators with one hit, junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie went 1-3 with an RBI out of the two-hole. Behind Guthrie in the three-hole, true freshman outfielder Austin Langworthy went 1-5 with an RBI. In the cleanup spot, JJ Schwarz smacked his team-leading seventh home run of the year as he went 1-3 with a run scored and an RBI.
In the five-hole, Christian Hicks went 1-5 with a run scored. As a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, true freshman Andrew Baker managed to go 1-2 with two runs scored. To finish off the Gator lineup, Austin Bodrato went 1-1 out of the designated hitter's spot with a run scored, an RBI, and two walks. His seventh inning single would be the first hit of his college career.
The final score of this game had me pretty shocked to say the least. I knew USF was good, but not 15-10 over the Florida Gators good. Fortunately for Florida, their midweek games for 2017 are over. They will have no one but their three weekend pitchers to blame for any potential woes moving forward, as the offense seems to be clicking quite well.
Before previewing the Alabama series, here are my final thoughts on tonight's loss:
- This is the first time since 2012 that Florida has lost to USF.
- Overall, the Gators are now 16-2 against the Bulls in the Kevin O'Sullivan era.
- Florida finishes with a record of 8-5 in their midweek games for 2017.
- This is the sixth time this season that Florida has scored double-digit runs in a game.
- This is Ryan Larson's 10th, Jonathan India's eighth, and Blake Reese's third multi-hit game of the year.
- India's double was his team-leading ninth of the season.
- India's home run was his sixth of the year and is currently second-best on the team.
- India's sacrifice fly was his third of the year.
- USF true freshman starter D.J. Roberts (3-0, 3.07 ERA) threw a gem. In seven innings, he allowed three earned runs on six hits while striking out four and walking two.
- USF's notable offensive performers Part I were: junior shortstop Kevin Merrell (1-5 with three RBI's and two walks), senior designated hitter Luke Borders (1-2 with a home run, three runs scored, two RBI's, and three walks) sophomore first baseman Joe Genord (3-5 with two home runs, three runs scored, four RBI's, and a walk)
- USF notable offensive performers Part II were: sophomore third baseman David Villar (2-4 with a double, two runs scored, and two walks), sophomore infielder Coco Montes (2-5 with two doubles, three runs scored, two RBI's, and a walk), and sophomore center fielder Garrett Zech (2-5 with a double, two runs scored, and a walk).
- The Florida pitching staff tonight walked 17 BATTERS! I do not need to comb through the Gator baseball archives to tell you that is a new infamous record.
- 3,114 were in attendance for nearly three and a half hours of brutality.
With their winning streak gone, the No. 5 Florida Gators (35-14, 16-8 SEC) will now focus on their last road series of the year. Their opponent will be the Alabama Crimson Tide (18-29, 5-19 SEC), who are the worst team in the conference. Though the Tide can seat roughly 8,500 at Sewell Thomas Stadium, they have not necessarily been unbeatable at home. They are 13-19 at the friendly confines, boasting the most home losses in the SEC.
However, Florida has had their struggles on the road and got swept last time they came to the state of Alabama for a weekend series (March 17th-19th against Auburn). Though much different two months later, the Gators will need to rely on their weekend starters and keep the offensive intensity up to walk out of Tuscaloosa with a sweep.
Florida has won their last five series against Alabama, and hold a 14-4 regular season record against the Tide under Sully. The last time they lost to 'Bama in Tuscaloosa was in 2008, which was Sully's first season.
Though history and the numbers point to Florida being the favorite in this series, it cannot be forgotten that Alabama just swept Auburn (32-18, 14-10 SEC) to hinder their arch-rival's shot at an SEC West title. If Florida comes in looking ahead to the Kentucky matchup next week, they may find themselves out of first place in the SEC East by the weekend's end.
For this series, Florida's probable starters will be junior right-hander Alex Faedo (7-1, 2.42 ERA) on Friday night, sophomore right hander Brady Singer (5-3, 2.23 ERA) on Saturday night, and sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (8-0, 3.79 ERA) on Sunday afternoon.
Alabama will counter with junior right-hander Jake Walters (5-4, 3.82 ERA), sophomore left-hander Dylan Duarte (2-5, 5.22 ERA), and senior right-hander Nick Eicholtz (2-0, 5.96 ERA) in some way or form.
The first two games are set for 7 p.m. and can be seen on the SEC Network+. The series finale is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will be telecasted on the SEC Network. All of the games can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.
As for USF (38-10, 12-6 AAC), they will ride the momentum of this Top 5 win into their weekend road series with the UConn Huskies (26-20, 10-8 AAC). This series will have some American Athletic Conference regular season title implications as the Huskies trail the Bulls by just two games for first place.