Jackson Kowar was in a rush on Sunday afternoon, but he forgot to tell the offense he had places to be.
Kowar dispatched of the Tribe in a four-minute, 13-pitch, three-strikeout frame that set the tone for an 11-6 win, finishing the Florida Gators (3-0) opening weekend sweep of William & Mary (0-3).
Dalton Guthrie kicked the bottom of the first off lining a ball into left center and hustling out a double. His hustle continued, tagging up on a shallow fly ball to left field and scored on a sacrifice fly.
“That’s him. HIs instincts are off the charts,” O’Sullivan said of Guthrie. “He’s an exciting player.”
Kowar surrendered a hit in the second but worked around it and then the Gators’ bats. Exploded.
Mike Rivera singled to left and Austin Langworthy lined his first career home run over the wall in right field. Freshman Keenan Bell, who was making his first start, singled to left and Christian Hicks followed suit. Both runners moved into scoring position on a double steal before and Bell scored when Guthrie reached on a throwing error. Deacon Liput swung at a first pitch fastball and launched it over the scoreboard in right field for a three-run home run, extending the Gators lead to 7-0.
It was a no-doubter, and Liput made sure he got a good look of the ball as it quickly made its way out of the stadium.
“That’s probably the furthest one I’ve hit,” Liput said of the shot. “I watched it for a little bit and watched the flight of the ball. Once I knew it was out I kind of put my head down and started jogging.”
“He led our team in homeruns in the fall and early spring,” O’Sullivan said of the draft-eligible sophomore. “His stance changed, he’s more upright, he’s got more leverage in his swing.”
Kowar continued to dazzle. He needed just seven pitches for a 1-2-3 inning in the third and only eight more to settle the side in the fourth inning. The sophomore right-hander was in complete control in his first outing as the Gators Sunday starter. Kowar’s fastball overpowered the Tribe hitters at 94-96. His changeup had batters lunging and he was able to control a newly added slider, sitting at 83-85, to both sides of the plate.
“I was excited to get out there and play after watching the first two night. I got kinda antsy, so I was excited to get out there and help the boys out and try to get a quality start,” Kowar said of having to wait for his Sunday start. “You just want to be out there. You almost feel a little helpless watching (the first two) games. It’s something I’ll have to get used to.”
The Gators piled on insurance runs in the fourth when Mike Rivera singled home two. Keenan Bell notched his first home run in the bottom of the seventh, extending the lead to 11-3.
Overall the Gators pitching staff was dominant. The bullpen, which was O’Sullivan’s biggest question mark before the season began, gave up just three runs in 11.2 innings of work. The staff combined for 37 strikeouts in three games, more than the staff combined for in the 2016 season opener (35).
Florida will travel to Jacksonville on Tuesday to take on the Dolphins at 6:00 pm. Sophomore Michael Byrne will earn the start for the Gators.