Entering the bottom of the eighth tied at three with rival Georgia, the Gators needed to find a way to put a run on the scoreboard. Shortstop Josh Rivera came through with an RBI single that put Florida ahead.
The Gators needed this win. Florida is still in contention to win the SEC Eastern Division. More importantly, they are a fringe possibility of a national (top 8) seed for the NCAA tournament. Every win matters right now, and every loss hurts even more.
Jack Leftwich would close the game out in the ninth, picking up his seventh win of the season and the Gators topped the Bulldogs 4-3 to open the three game set.
How It Happened:
Florida got on the scoreboard first as Kendrick Calilao crushed a solo homer to the berm in left to put the Gators on top 1-0.
As has been the case all season, Florida couldn’t get the shutdown inning following the run. Georgia responded with a pair of runs in the third to grab a 2-1 lead.
The Gators evened it up in the bottom of the third. Sterlin Thompson doubled to lead off the frame and Cory Acton laid a well executed sacrifice bunt (say what?) to move him to third. Jacob Young followed with an RBI groundout.
Georgia added a run in the fifth, but Florida once again bounced back immediately, this time courtesy of a Young RBI double that brought Acton in.
Pitching was a major story in this one for Florida. A trio of Gators pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts, including ten from Tommy Mace, who made his first Friday night start in over a month.
Mace went 6.2 innings before surrendering a double. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan made the move to Trey Van Der Weide, who came in and struck out the only batter he faced. Leftwich completed the game, striking out five in two innings of work.
Rivera’s big hit came after a walk (Kris Armstrong) and a hit by pitch (Kirby McMullen) and two outs. His single to left found the grass just before it could be caught and allowed Armstrong to cross home plate for the winning run.
Leftwich did have an eventful final inning, allowing two hits to put a runner in scoring position before striking out Joshua McAllister to end the contest.
- W: Jack Leftwich (7-3)
- L: Ben Harris (4-1)
- Calilao: 2-3, HR, RBI
- Acton: 2-2, SB, R
- Young: 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI
- Mace: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 10 K, 2 BB
- Leftwich: 2 IP, 2 H, 5 K, 0 BB
Florida improved to 34-15 on the season and 16-9 in SEC action. Following losses by Tennessee and Vanderbilt on Friday, the Gators sit just one game back of the Vols and half a game behind the Commodores in the East.
Florida will continue it’s series with Georgia on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 PM. Hunter Barco (6-0, 3.50 ERA) gets the start for the Gators.