Monday, May 14, 2018

UF Baseball: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 15 Georgia Series Recap

Let me begin by saying that yes, ZKS is back for the summer! After a tumultuous, stressful, absolutely ridiculous first year of law school at LSU, the articles have returned! Let's not make this about me anymore though. The Gators are SEC Regular Season Champs!

This past weekend in Gainesville, the No. 1 Florida Gators (41-12, 20-7 SEC) won the program's 15th SEC Regular Season Title with a series win over the No. 15 Georgia Bulldogs (35-16, 16-11 SEC). Here is a recap of each game.

Game 1 (May 11th)
In a thrilling walk off victory, the No.1 Florida Gators (40-11, 19-6 SEC) defeated the No. 15 Georgia Bulldogs (34-15, 15-10 SEC) by a score of 7-6.

Junior ace Brady Singer (10-1, 2.25 ERA) toed the rubber and allowed five runs (one earned) on eight hits in seven innings of work. He struck out six Bulldogs, issued one walk, and hit one batter.

All five of Georgia's runs came in the sixth inning. With Florida up 3-0 and two outs, junior infielder LJ Talley took Singer's 1-0 offering out of the yard for a go-ahead grand slam. Florida would tie it in the bottom half of the frame and Singer would return to the mound with the game tied 5-5 in the seventh.

After stranding runners on second and third with an inning-ending strikeout, Singer was done for the night. It would be the second no decision of the year for the right-hander as he concluded his outing with 105 pitches thrown.

Coming in for the eighth was touted freshman Jordan Butler. The left-hander pitched a perfect inning while striking out two batters to keep the game even. Butler earned himself a second inning of work in the ninth, but it is here where he began to run into some trouble.

Butler allowed a single on a 1-2 count and then hit a batter on a 1-1 count. Now with two men on and no outs, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan had no choice but to go this reliable closer Michael Byrne. The junior right-hander entered this anticipated bunting situation and did his job as he fielded the sacrifice bunt and threw it to first base for the first out of the frame.

After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Byrne induced a foul out for the second out of the inning. Then, trouble struck as Byrne threw a passed ball that allowed Georgia to take a 7-6 lead. He would get the next batter to line out and was now on the hook for his his first loss of the year. The run would be charged to Butler.

The Gators were able to bang out 10 hits in the game, with some of the most important base knocks coming in the final frame of the game. Here's a breakdown of how that wild ninth inning unfolded:

9th Inning
Sophomore first baseman Keenan Bell singled to right field on a 3-2 count. After fellow sophomore Andrew Baker came in to pinch run, senior center fielder Nick Horvath singled up the middle on a 1-2 count. Next was junior second baseman Deacon Liput, who was plunked with the first pitch of the at-bat to load the bases.

With still nobody out, Georgia skipper Scott Stricklin (weird I know) went to his bullpen and called on sophomore closer Aaron Schunk. Opposing him would be junior outfielder Nelson Maldonaldo. On the third pitch of the at-bat, Nelly hit a fly ball to center field that was deep enough to score Baker and knot the game up at 7-7. Horvath would advance to third on the sac fly.

With runners on first and third now, junior third baseman Jonathan India was intentionally walked to reload the bases and bring up sophomore outfielder Will Dalton. Working the count to 3-1, the transfer out of Columbia State Community College decided to end the game with a little more flair as he hit a deep fly ball out to center field. 

There was no doubt it was going to end the game as a sacrifice fly, but that would not even matter as sophomore centerfielder Tuck Maxwell dropped the ball. As soon as the ball hit the ground, Nick Horvath would cruise into home for the game-winning run!

Offensive Performers
Dalton's game-winning sacrifice fly would be his lone offensive contribution of the game as he went 0-3. Three Gators has multiple hits in the contest. Out of the two-hole, Nelson Maldonaldo went 2-3 with three RBI's, a run scored, a walk, and a sacrifice fly.

Right behind Nelly in the three-hole, Jonathan India posted a 2-4 night with a double, a run scored, and a walk. Rounding out the trio with the most hits was catcher JJ Schwarz. Out of the five-hole, the senior had himself a night as he went 3-4 with a solo home run in the fourth inning, a double, three RBI's, and a run scored.

Final Takeaway
With their incredible comeback victory against rival No. 15 Georgia, the No. 1 Florida Gators trimmed their magic number to clinch the SEC Regular Season Title down to one. Before recapping Game 2, here are some tidbits from a crazy night:

  • The win tonight extended Florida's winning streak against Georgia to six.
  • This is the second time this season that Florida has walked off against an opponent (Rhode Island on March 10th).
  • JJ Schwarz's home run was his 11th of the season.
  • JJ Schwarz's double was his 16th of the year, while Jonathan India notched his 11th two-bagger of the 2018 campaign. Deacon Liput also had a double (in a 1-4 effort) to tie India with 11 on the season as well. 
  • This was India's 21st, JJ's 18th, and Nelly's 15th multi-hit games of the season, respectively.
  • This is the seventh time JJ has gotten three hits in a single game.
  • Florida made just one error in the contest and it came off of a fielding error from Keenan Bell in the sixth inning. Two batters later, Georgia hit a grand slam. It would be Bell's third error of the year.
  • Michael Byrne now improves to a perfect 2-0 on the year.
  • This was Florida's 27th win at home.
  • Florida/Georgia on the diamond boded well for the rivalry as 5,279 fans packed the Mac for the series opener.

*All stats accredited to

Game 2 (May 12th)
The No. 1 Florida Gators (41-11, 20-6 SEC) clinched back-to-back SEC Regular Season Titles with a 9-3 victory over the No. 15 Georgia Bulldogs (34-16, 15-11 SEC).

Junior right-hander Jackson Kowar (9-2, 2.56 ERA) toed the rubber and threw a gem for the Gators in a clinching effort. He scattered six hits over seven innings while allowing one unearned run, striking out nine, and walking only one. At 105 pitches after the seventh, Kowar was pulled with Florida up 9-1.

In relief came freshman right-hander Tommy Mace. Georgia responded positively to the pitching change as they touched up Mace for five hits and two runs. It would lead to no great comeback though, as Mace recorded the last six outs of the game to seal the victory and an SEC Championship. It would be Kowar's ninth win of the season.

Florida again recorded 10 hits and used a big six-run inning in the sixth to put Georgia away. Here are the theatrics from that inning:

6th Inning
JJ Schwarz singled on the first pitch he saw to lead off the inning and Austin Langworthy followed with a walk. Freshman first baseman Brady Smith then singled to load up the bases with no outs. Up now was junior second baseman Blake Reese, who cranked the first pitch he saw over the right field fence for a grand slam.

This increased Florida's lead to 7-1 and was good redemption for Reese after he had made a throwing error in the top of the fifth. Nick Horvath would draw a walk and after a pitching change and two straight outs, Jonathan India sent a 2-2 pitch into orbit to make it 9-1 Florida. Will Dalton would end the frame with a fly out.

Offensive Performers
Yet again, three Gators had multiple hits against the Bulldogs. Returning to the club were Nelson Maldonaldo and JJ Schwarz. Nelly went 2-4 with a two-run home run in the fifth inning, two RBI's, and a run scored out of the two-hole.

Schwarz again terrorized Georgia from the the five-hole as he went a perfect 3-3 with another solo home run in the fourth inning, one RBI, a run scored, and one walk. Capping off the list from two spots down in the seven-hole, Brady Smith went 2-4 with a pair of singles and a run scored.

Final Takeaway
In the process of clinching yet another SEC title, the Gators also won their 19th consecutive series. Before recapping Florida's bid at a sweep, here are some tidbits from Game 2:

  • The win tonight extended Florida's winning streak against Georgia to seven.
  • Florida has now won five consecutive series against the Bulldogs.
  • This was JJ's 12th, Nelly's 7th, and Reese's 4th home runs of the season, respectively.
  • This was  JJ's 18th, Nelly's 16th, and Smith's 5th multi-hit games of the season, respectively.
  • This is the eighth time JJ has gotten three hits in a single game.
  • Blake Reese's throwing error in the fifth inning was his 10th of the season.
  • This was Florida's 28th win at home.
  • This is the third time in program history that the Gators have clinched back-to-back SEC titles ('81-'82 and '10-'11)
  • 4,621 fans were able to make it out to the Mac for this one.

Game 3 (May 13th)
On Senior Day, the No. 1 Florida Gators (41-12, 20-7 SEC) came up just short in their attempt to sweep the No. 15 Georgia Bulldogs (35-16, 16-11 SEC) as they lost by a score of 4-1 in the series finale.

Making his fourth SEC start of his career, freshman right-hander Jack Leftwich (4-3, 4.26 ERA) donned the mound for the Gators in search of a sweep. Tossing only 4.2 innings, Leftwich got tagged for four earned runs on nine hits. Three of those runs came in the third inning. He struck out five while walking four Georgia hitters.

After runners reached the corners with two outs and Florida down 4-1 in the fifth, Kevin O'Sullivan pulled Leftwich at 83 pitches. In came right-hander Andrew Baker, would would be the first of Florida's four relievers on the day.

Baker kept the deficit at three as he induced a fly out to end the threat. He would pitch two shutout innings of one-hit relief. He had struck out two and walked a batter before Sully decided to pull him with two outs and runners on first and second in the seventh inning. The score was still 4-1 at this point.

Relieving Baker was freshman right-hander Hunter McMullen. He hit his lone batter of the contest on a 1-2 pitch to load the bases. That was all Sully needed to see as he immediately took out McMullen in favor of Jordan Butler. Despite falling down 2-1 in the count, the freshman generated a fly out into left field to escape the frame with no damage.

In the eighth, Michael Byrne would assume pitching duties and finish out the rest of the game. He registered one strike out and allowed one walk as he kept Georgia off the board to give the Gators a fighting chance down three entering the bottom of the ninth inning.

Three. That's how many hits the Gators had in this game. After Blake Reese's RBI groundout in the second inning, Florida would do no more on offense. The trio of Gators with hits were Jonathan India, Will Dalton, and Austin Langworthy. They each singled and each drew one of Florida's three walks in the contest. Dalton and Langworthy both recorded a stolen base as well.

A bunch of credit should be given to Georgia starter Kevin Smith (7-1, 3.25 ERA). He delivered seven strong innings against the Gators while striking out six, walking three, and conceding just one run on three hits. He threw 112 pitches in the contest.

Final Takeaway
As has been a similar tune this season, Florida yet again missed out on a series sweep. Regardless, that does not detract from what has yet again been another solid series victory for the Orange and Blue. Here are my final tidbits from the tough loss:

  • Florida's six-game winning streak may have ended, but they have still won 10 out of 11 series against Georgia in the Kevin O'Sullivan era.
  • Also in the Kevin O'Sullivan era, the Gators are 25-8 against the Dawgs in the regular season.
  • Will Dalton stole his eighth bag of the season in this game while sophomore Austin Langworthy nabbed his fourth stolen base of the year.
  • Deacon Liput had a game to forget about as he went 0-4 with three strikeouts.
  • Aaron Schunk and Keegan McGovern were the leading hitters for Georgia today. Schunk went 2-5 with a run scored and a stolen base, while McGovern went 2-5 with a three-run home run, three RBI's, and a run scored. His blast in the third inning is what gave Georgia a 3-1 lead at the time. 
  • This is the fifth time this season (fourth in SEC play) that the Gators have been unable to complete the sweep in the series finale. This is just a point of interest, it does not at all undermine how great Florida has been on the weekends this season.
  • 4,135 fans showed out to the Mac for Senior Day.
  • Speaking of Senior Day, both JJ Schwarz and Nick Horvath (both high school teammates at Palm Beach Gardens) were honored today for their contributions and time with the Florida Gator baseball program. 
  • Florida finishes with a 28-6 record at home for the 2018 regular season.

Looking Ahead
With another SEC series victory and the SEC Regular Season Championship clinched, Florida has nothing to worry about except trying to win their 20th consecutive weekend series. Their final opponent of the regular season will be the Mississippi State Bulldogs (28-24, 12-15 SEC) down in

Even though the Bulldogs have had a subpar season, their fans will still show out and create a chaotic environment to try and rattled the top-ranked Gators. Under Kevin O'Sullivan, Florida has a 12-6 record against the Bulldogs in their six regular season meetings. At Dudy Noble Field at Polk-Dement Stadium (Miss State's field), the Gators are 6-3 and have not lost a series there since the 2013 season.

The series is set to start on Thursday, but the Gators will go with the usual rotation. Junior right-hander Brady Singer (10-1, 2.25 ERA) will get the opener, junior right-hander Jackson Kowar (9-2, 2.56 ERA) will throw Friday, and freshman right-hander Jack Leftwich (4-3, 4.26 ERA) will start the final game of the regular season.

Mississippi State will most likely counter with Ethan Small (5-3, 2.75 ERA), Konnor Pilkington (2-6 4.31 ERA), and Jacob Billingsley (3-3, 4.58 ERA) in some combination or another.

Game 1 can be seen on SEC Network+ at 7:30 p.m ET, Game 2 will be on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET, and Game 3 will also be on ESPNU at 4:30 p.m. ET.

As for the No. 15 Georgia Bulldogs, they will take on the Presbyterian Blue Hose (15-36) in a weekday game at home before hosting the No .6 Arkansas Razorbacks (36-15, 17-10, SEC) in their last home series of the regular season.



No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.