Backed by a gutsy effort on the mound from Tommy Mace and a pair of homers by Jud Fabian, the Gators topped Vanderbilt 11-8 in a back and forth affair on Saturday.
From the very first pitch, it looked as if it would be another long evening of baseball. Mace retrieved a ground ball hit right at him and proceeded to underhand the throw to first and Jordan Butler was unable to come up with the grab. The run would come around to score just three batters later.
Florida had the benefit of facing Jack Leiter off his game.
Leiter, the possible first overall pick in the upcoming MLB Draft, struggled with his command and walked Jacob Young and Nathan Hickey to open the game. Jud Fabian, however, saw a pitch he liked and drove it for a home run to put the Gators ahead 3-1.
As Florida has all year, they allowed Vandy to score immediately to tie things up in the second.
After being blanked in the bottom of the frame, the Commodores scored in the third on a solo homer from Parker Norland. Florida rebounded as Fabian and Kirby McMullen crushed solo homers in the bottom of the third to put the Gators up 5-4.
Yet again, Vandy rebounded and tacked on two runs on a homer by Maxwell Romero, Jr.
Florida rebounded as Josh Rivera and Colby Halter scored on an error at second that allowed Hickey to reach base.
After Vandy failed to score in the top of the fifth, the Gators struck again. A Rivera single scored Butler and Jacob Young reached on an error that plated Rivera. Halter was thrown out at the plate, though replay indicated he made it in under the tag.
Florida added two more runs in the sixth with Kris Armstrong’s two run blast to make it 11-6.
Despite allowing six runs over the first four innings, Mace settled in and pitched eight innings, saving the bullpen for the series finale.
Jack Leftwich closed the game by pitching the ninth, but not without some drama. In the end, however, Florida pulled out the win and will have a chance to clinch the series on Sunday.
- W: Mace (5-0)
- L: Leither (7-2)
- Fabian: 2-3, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB
- Rivera: 3-4, RBI, 2 R
- McMullen: 2-4, HR, RBI, R, BB
- Butler: 2-4, 2B, R, BB
- Mace: 8 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 7 K, 0 BB
Florida will face Vanderbilt on Sunday in the series finale. The game is set for a 3:00 PM first pitch from Florida Ballpark. Hunter Barco will get the start on the mound for the Gators.