Florida’s weekend series against the Georgia Bulldogs was simply disappointing. Getting swept is never good, but to lose three straight in the fashion the Gators did, especially in the context of the season? Just brutal.
The now unranked Gators (18-10, 3-6 SEC) dropped three straight to Georgia (22-6, 6-3 SEC), who moved up from No. 23 in the latest D1 Baseball top-25 to replace UF at No. 14. Following a previous weekend series loss to LSU and No. 2 Arkansas on the horizon, Florida is in a dangerous position as the season picks up.
It started on Thursday when Gators ace Hunter Barco was tasked with the series opener in Athens. The sophomore has been the exception to Florida’s overall pitching struggles this year, even being ranked first at his position by D1 Baseball, but that wasn’t the case against UGA. Barco gave up hits to the first four batters he faced and racked up a 30+ pitch count in the first inning.
Despite the subpar performance from Barco, the Gators still managed to hold the game even at four runs heading into the final inning. Jud Fabian came to the plate with Corey Robinson already on base. Fabian, who has been a star for UF all season, was certainly in striking distance to take the lead.
The first-pitch fastball came right down the middle, and Fabian crushed it.
The ball flew out to left center. Everyone knew it was gone the moment Fabian clubbed it. The junior trotted around the bases supported by the cheers of his dugout, and Florida was now a frame away from victory.
Except, UF’s pitching collapsed in the 9th, allowing three runs on two hits and a miraculous Georgia victory. The Gatorss found themselves down one game in disastrous fashion.
Friday’s loss was like a slow, painful death compared to the shocking defeat on Thursday. Brendon Sproat took the mound for UF and delivered a solid performance with 8 hits and 3 earned runs in 6 innings. Unfortunately, Florida’s bats were dead cold.
The Gators went hitless through the first four innings before BT Riopelle singled to right field. Georgia collected hits early on, but neither team could produce runs until the sixth when the ‘Dawgs took control. Three runs followed by three more in the eighth blew the game wide open for Georgia. At the end of the game, Florida had only coughed up one run and UGA was handed the series victory.
With the series already out of reach, the Gators came in to Saturday’s contest just hoping to scrape by with one victory and avoid a 1-3 week. Instead, they got a collapse sandwich.
Things looked promising at the start. Florida took a one run lead to open the game. The ‘Dawgs responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first, but the Gators’ offense at least showed signs of life.
Florida’s Brandon Neely and former-Gator-turned-Bulldog Nolan Crisp battled it out on the mound, keeping the teams scoreless after the first, until UF’s bats exploded in the fifth. The Gators brought in five runs in the inning, capped off by another no-doubter from Jud Fabian into the trees of Foley Field.
Georgia picked up just one run in response and at the end of the fifth, the Gators led 6-3. It looked like the Gators may walk away from the horrible weekend with some semblance of a positive.
The ‘Dawgs came back with an even hotter streak, notching eight runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to regain the lead, 11-6. Florida got a run back in response, but UGA added three more in the eighth and shut out the Gators’ final frame to out the cherry on top of a series sweep.
Now, the Gators are at the dawn of a new week. They’ll be back at home on Tuesday vs. Florida A&M and will stay put for a weekend series against Arkansas. Florida has a lot on its plate as the Razorbacks look like one of the best teams in the nation. The Hogs are 21-5 and boast a strong defensive unit with the best fielding percentage in the SEC.
Florida has a lot of work to be done on both sides if it wants to improve its fortunes as three current top-10 teams in Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Tennessee make up the next three weekend opponents. Tuesday’s game against the Rattlers will have to be a solid performance to serve as a proper warm up before the difficulty increases again.
First pitch on April 6 is set for 6 p.m.