The Florida Gators baseball team found out just how much one swing of the bat can change things on Saturday. Florida was trailing South Carolina 7-5 in the eighth inning. Austin Langworthy led off the eighth with a single to right. Ryan Larson walked. After a pitching change, Nelson Maldonado also drew a walk to load the bases. JJ Schwarz stepped up to the plate, and after being mired in a season long slump, crushed a 1-0 pitch to the left field bleachers, which propelled the Gators to a series victory over the Gamecocks.
The Gators haven’t shown themselves to be the kind of team to pull off a win in this type of situation this year. In fact, on Friday night-just one night prior, Florida lost under almost identical circumstances. In the eighth inning of Friday’s game, the Gators loaded the bases with no outs while trailing 4-1. Florida’s 2-3-4 hitters each got an out to end the possibility of a win without scoring a single run. This result is much more indicative of the Florida offense we’ve seen in 2017.
If not for that one swing, the series against South Carolina could have easily ended disastrously. Instead, Florida fans can hope the momentum of the win will carry over into the series against Georgia, which starts this coming Friday evening. For this to happen, one of the things Florida needs is for Schwarz to be the player we saw during his freshman year, when he clubbed 18 homers on his way to being named National Freshman of the Year. Schwarz’ average has risen to .243 after spending much of the first half of the year hoovering near the .200 mark, but he must become the presence in the middle of the lineup that everyone expected.
Florida is positioned well despite their offensive failings. The Gators have the #9 RPI in the country and are in the discussion to be a national seed, (top 8), in the NCAA tournament. The setup of Florida’s final four SEC series appears incredibly favorable for the team. Florida will play Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama and Kentucky in SEC play. Georgia is in last place in the SEC East, while Ole Miss is only ahead of last place Alabama in SEC West standings. Kentucky is currently in first place in the East, but if Florida can power past the SEC cellar dwellers, that could easily change.
One swing on a Saturday afternoon may have changed the forecast for this team. All of a sudden, their future looks much brighter.
(Standings via SECsports.com)