Thursday, May 4, 2017

UF Baseball: No. 7 Florida Splits Series with Jacksonville

The No. 7 Florida Gators (32-13) extended their winning streak to six games with a 6-2 victory over the Jacksonville Dolphins (26-18) this past Wednesday night at the Mac.

Making his first career collegiate start, true freshman Nick Long (0-0, 11.25 ERA) went two innings and allowed two earned runs on two hits. He walked four and struck out two. When the first two runners in the third inning reached base via walk, Long was pulled for fellow true freshman Nate Brown.

With Florida up 1-0, Brown would walk his first two batters to plate a run before surrendering the lead on a groundout to second base. Both runs would be charged to Long as Brown ended up throwing two scoreless innings of one-hit relief. He issued two walks and struck out a pair.

Entering in the fifth inning with the game tied at 2-2 was junior left-hander Nick Horvath. He went the longest of any Gator reliever as he threw 2.2 innings out of the pen. In those frames, he struck out three Dolphins and allowed two hits.

When the eighth inning rolled around, Horvath was pulled for true freshman Tyler Dyson with Florida up 6-2. The flame-throwing right-hander would cruise in his two innings of work, registering one strikeout and retiring all six batters he faced. The win would be awarded to Nick Horvath to put him at 2-0 on the year.

Yet again, the Florida offense banged out nine hits while only needing to overcome a 2-1 deficit after the third inning. The Orange and Blue scored a run in the first and fourth innings while putting up two in the sixth and seventh.

Junior first baseman Christian Hicks was the main man for the Gators tonight as he went 2-4 with two home runs, two runs scored, and three RBI's. His first bomb was a solo shot to right field in the fourth inning that tied the game at 2-2.

In the sixth, Hicks jumped on the first pitch of the at-bat and again sent the ball over the right field fence. This two-out dinger came with Austin Langworthy on first base and gave Florida a 4-2 lead.

It was not just Hicks who got the Florida offense going as two other Gators had multiple hits in the game. Hitting in front of Hicks in the five-hole, junior catcher JJ Schwarz went 2-4 with two RBI's. He had an RBI single in both the first and seventh innings. Rounding out the multi-hit trifecta in the three-hole, true freshman center fielder Austin Langworthy went 2-3 with two runs scored and a walk.

Among those with one hit, senior outfielder Ryan Larson went 1-4 with his sixth stolen base of the season, true freshman first baseman Keenan Bell went 1-4, and sophomore left fielder Blake Reese went 1-2 with an RBI single in the seventh.

Final Takeaway
Avenging their loss to Jacksonville in early February with this win, the Gators are firing on all cylinders entering their weekend series against the Ole Miss Rebels (). Before previewing this matchup, here are my final tidbits on Florida's sixth straight victory:

  • The Gators are now 8-3 (7-2 at home) all-time against Jacksonville since Kevin O'Sullivan took over in 2008.
  • Florida's six-game winning streak is their longest of the season.
  • This is the 13th multi-hit game for Christian Hicks, 10th for JJ Schwarz, and fifth for Austin Langworthy.
  • Though hitless on the day, true freshman designated hitter Garrett Milchin drew a team-high two walks for Florida in this game.
  • Two players accounted for all of Jacksonville's hits in this game. They were redshirt sophomore first baseman Evan Fernandez (2-3 with a double and a walk) and sophomore designated hitter Mike Cassala (2-4 with a triple).
  • People were not feeling the Wednesday night ball game, as just 2,760 fans made their way out to the Mac tonight.

Looking Ahead
With another midweek win in the books, the No. 7 Florida Gators (32-13, 13-8 SEC) will now turn their attention back to conference play as the Ole Miss Rebels (29-17, 11-10 SEC) come to town.

The Gators have not played the Rebels since 2015, where they dropped two of three in Oxford. They have not won the series against the Rebels since 2013, where they took two of three at the Mac.

The Gators will go with the usual suspects for this weekend. Junior right-hander Alex Faedo (6-1, 2.63 ERA) will get the Friday night start, sophomore right-hander Brady Singer (5-3, 2.09 ERA) will have the Saturday night game, and sophomore right-hander Jackson Kowar (7-0, 3.90 ERA) concludes the series on Sunday afternoon.

Ole Miss will probably trot out junior left-hander David Parkinson (5-2, 3.43 ERA), sophomore right-hander James McArthur (3-3, 3.08 ERA), and freshman right-hander Will Ethridge (1-2, 2.25 ERA) for their trip to Gainesville.

Being just one game out of the lead for the SEC East, Florida will again need to win or preferably sweep this series to keep pace with the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats (31-14, 14-7).

The first two games are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and can be seen on the SEC Network+. The series finale is at 2 p.m. and will be televised on the SEC Network. All of the games can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

As for Jacksonville (26-18, 10-2 A-Sun), they return home for a three-game weekend set with the Stetson Hatters (20-25, 8-4 A-Sun). This series will be crucial with potential first place in the Atlantic Sun up for grabs.



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