Wednesday, May 3, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 7 Florida Narrowly Defeats Florida A&M

The No. 7 Florida Gators (31-13) came away with a closer than expected 8-7 victory over the Florida A&M Rattlers (23-20) this past Tuesday night at the Mac.

Making his first collegiate start, true freshman Andrew Baker (1-2. 7.15 ERA) had a rough outing. Throwing just one inning, the left-hander allowed three earned runs on five hits with one strikeout. He did not come back in the second inning with Florida down 3-0.

Instead, fellow true freshman Kirby McMullen entered and kept Florida in the game. Though he allowed two earned runs, the Ocala product tossed 3.1 strong innings of one-hit relief. He had three strikeouts, but walked and hit two batters a piece.

At 53 pitches and with runners on first and second with one out, McMullen was removed in the fifth inning with Florida up 6-3. In his place came senior Frank Rubio, who sprinkled one strikeout in-between the three hits he gave up in the inning. FAMU would cut the lead to 6-5 off Rubio, with Florida right fielder Nelson Maldonaldo cutting down the potential tying run at the plate to end the inning.

After the fifth, Rubio worked two perfect innings. In the eighth, he used a double play along with a strikeout  to keep Florida ahead 8-5 going into the final frame. He finished with 3.2 innings of relief with one earned run on five hits allowed and two strikeouts.

With Rubio departing with a runner on first and no outs in the ninth, true freshman Garrett Milchin would enter to close this one out. Closer Michael Byrne had worked all three games in the Georgia series and thus was given the night off.

With a three-run cushion, Milchin gave up two straight hits that cut the lead to 8-6. A wild pitch moved the runners up before a strikeout and groundout cut the lead to 8-7. With the tying run 90 feet away, Milchin induced and fielded a comebacker that he flipped to first base to extend Florida's winning streak to five games. It would be Milchin's first career save and the third career win for Kirby McMullen.

The Florida offense banged out nine hits and did a good job overcoming an early 3-0 deficit. The Orange and Blue scored once in the second, five times in the fourth, and twice in the seventh. Here's a rundown of Florida's offensive outburst in the fourth inning:

Fourth Inning
Junior first baseman Christian Hicks showed no hesitation as he blasted the first pitch he saw over the right field fence for a home run. It was now 3-2 FAMU. Senior left fielder Ryan Larson then singled to center field on a full count.

After true freshman designated hitter Keenan Bell was hit by a pitch, the long ball struck again for Florida as Garrett Milchin drilled his first career home run to right field. Like Hicks, Milchin jumped on the first pitch he saw. It was now 5-3 Florida.

Going back to the top of the order Deacon Liput smacked a double to left center on the first pitch of his at-bat. He would reach third base on a passed ball and scored on an Austin Langworthy sacrifice fly. JJ Schwarz would hit before Langworthy and strike out while Nelson Maldonaldo hit after the true freshman and flew out to end the inning.

Offensive Performers
Two Florida Gators had multiple hits while all but two batters had at least one hit in the contest. In the two-hole, junior shortstop Dalton Guthrie went 2-5. Down a couple spots in the six-hole, Christian Hicks went 2-4 with his second home run of the season, two runs scored, and an RBI.

For the rest of the Gator lineup, sophomore leadoff man Deacon Liput went 1-5 with his seventh double of the season. In the three-hole, Austin Langworthy went 1-4 with the sixth double of his college career and an RBI as well. Hitting cleanup, sophomore Nelson Maldonaldo nearly replicated Langworthy. He too hit his sixth double of the year in a 1-4 effort while also scoring a run and drawing a walk.

In the seven-hole, Ryan Larson posted a 1-2 night with a team-high two runs scored, an RBI, and two walks. Rounding out the Florida lineup in the ninth spot, Garrett Milchin went 1-4 with his first career home run, a career-high four RBI's, a run scored, a sacrifice fly, and a walk.

Final Takeaway
The Gators have now won two straight against Florida A&M and are 3-1 against the Rattlers since Kevin O'Sullivan took over in 2008. Before previewing Florida's upcoming game against the Jacksonville Dolphins (26-17), here are my final tidbits on tonight's victory:

  • Both Austin Langworthy's and Garrett Milchin's sacrifice flies were the first of their Gator careers.
  • This is the 15th multi-hit game for Dalton Guthrie this season and 12th for Christian Hicks.
  • JJ Schwarz threw out his fourth runner of the year in the third inning of this game.
  • Although he went hitless, JJ did draw two walks and scored once in the contest.
  • Florida A&M's top hitters on the night were: Dallas Oliver (2-4 with two runs scored and a stolen base), Brian Davis (2-5 with two runs scored and two RBI's), Kodi Russ (2-4 with two RBI's), and Garrett Wilkinson (2-4 with an RBI).
  • FAMU had one error in the game while Florida played clean for the sixth consecutive game.
  • Nelson Maldonaldo's assist in the fifth inning was his fifth of the season.
  • The fan support for Florida was strong as 3,238 showed out for this midweek contest.

Looking Ahead
After avoiding the upset at home (to put it bluntly), the No. 7 Florida Gators (31-13) will now turn their attention to the Jacksonville Dolphins (26-17). In their previous meeting earlier in the year, the Dolphins walked off on the Gators in Jacksonville after scoring three runs in the ninth inning.

They were then supposed to play the Gators in Gainesville that very next day, but inclement weather forced both schools to reschedule the bout to May 3rd. Unlike Stetson, Jacksonville will get their second shot at the Gators as they attempt to sweep the midweek series for the first time ever.

The Gators are 2-1 all-time against the Dolphins at the Mac, and will be on the lookout after the stunning upset in late February. There is a good chance that Sully goes with either Nate Brown (1-0, 3.45 ERA) or Austin Langworthy (1-0, 4.63 ERA) to start this one. If not these two, I guarantee that a a true freshman will get the start in some way, shape, or form.

First pitch for this rescheduled contest is set for 6:30 p.m. It can be seen on the SEC Network+ and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network. 

As for Florida A&M (23-20), they will play host to the North Florida Ospreys (30-15) before opening a three-game home set against the North Carolina AT&T Aggies (21-21) in MEAC play. The winner of this series will grab the lead in the Southern division of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.



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