Coming into Wednesday’s game with No. 13 Florida, Georgia Southern had already proven it wasn’t scared of SEC competition. The Eagles took two of three against Georgia over the weekend and rode into Gainesville brimming with confidence.
GSU jumped out to a 6-1 lead against UF, but the Gators fought back to regain control, going ahead 7-6 in the sixth inning. Still holding the lead with two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Gators had a chance to close out the game.
The Eagles had other ideas. GSU tied the game in the ninth before taking the lead in the 12th inning, a lead that would hold, as Georgia Southern beat the Gators, 8-7.
Florida (3-2) was riding a three-game winning streak heading into the game, fresh off a 5-3 victory against UCF in Orlando on Tuesday night. The short trip didn’t appear to have any ill effect on the Gators, as Florida went ahead 1-0 in the first inning.
Sophomore pitcher Justin Shafer started his second game of the season Tuesday and looked good through his first three innings of work, striking out a career-high four batters.
Shafer ran into trouble in the fourth when he gave up two runs, putting UF down 3-1, but the real trouble came in the next inning. After walking the leadoff batter, Shafer would allow a pair of hits, coupled with two separate sacrifices, as GSU (3-1) went up 6-1.
The Gators appeared to be in real trouble heading into the bottom of the fifth, but Florida’s bats came alive in the inning, highlighted by Shafer’s three-run home run to tie the ballgame.
Florida would add an extra run in the sixth, and appeared to be in prime position to put the game away as closer Johnny Magliozzi trotted to the mound in the eighth inning.
Magliozzi quickly sat down the last two batters of the eighth before again putting the Eagles in a hole in the ninth. After forcing Scooter Williams into a groundout, Magliozzi gave up a single to Ben Morgan.
With things getting desperate, Morgan stole second as Magliozzi struck out the next batter, but even with two on and two outs, GSU’s runner in scoring position appeared to be a threat.
With T.D. Davis in an 0-2 count, the small litter of Florida fans inside McKethan Stadium rose to their feet in anticipation of the Gators’ fourth straight victory.
However, GSU wanted the game to last a little longer.
Regrouping from his 0-2 hole, Davis hit a hard single down the left field line to score Morgan and tie the game.
As the GSU bench exploded, it was clear the momentum had shifted back to the visitors, who made the nearly four-hour trek to Gainesville.
Florida had an opportunity to win the game in the ninth when Vickash Ramjit stepped to the plate with bases loaded and two outs. After engaging in a battle with GSU pitcher Kyle Rowe, Ramjit would eventually strike out swinging, ending Florida’s hopes of winning in regulation.
Both teams offered little in the 10th and 11th innings, but in the 12th, Florida would eventually falter.
The Gators had played sloppily throughout the game, earning five errors through the first five innings. However, it was the sixth error which would eventually doom them.
After Davis reached safely on a single, a throwing error on a Arthur Owens sacrifice bunt allowed for GSU to have two runners on with no outs. GSU was able to reach safely on another bunt, giving the Eagles three runners on and a prime opportunity.
With the bases loaded, sophomore Ryan Harris was locked in a full count but ultimately walked the winning run home.
The Gators were able to escape without any more damage done, but Florida was unable to do anything of consequence in their final chance at the plate, thus ending the game.
“We obviously did not play very well, and I think that’s indicative of where we’re at as a team right now,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We played so well last night; tonight we did not play well at all. We made six errors, balls were getting underneath the gloves of the infielders, we had a lead-off walk to start the fourth inning, then we gave up an 0-2 hit … so, there were a lot of things that factored into it tonight. It’s remarkable that we were able to stay in it.”
Although Magliozzi gave up the game-tying hit in the ninth, O’Sullivan believes his closer has nothing to hang his head for.
“When you get within one strike to finish the ballgame, you feel like you have it right there, but Mags [Johnny Magliozzi] threw the ball really well tonight,” O’Sullivan said.
“Obviously, he’s disappointed with the outcome, but I was very pleased with the way he threw the ball — that’s the life of a closer.”
Corey Stump, who gave up the leadoff hit in the 12th, was credited with the loss, while Rowe earned the victory for the Eagles.
While six — Florida’s error count — was the standout number on the evening, the number nine was also a big one, as it was the number of pitchers used for the Gators during the game.
The team will have a chance to rest their arms and bodies on Thursday, before kicking off a weekend series against Florida Gulf Coast (2-1) on Friday at 7 p.m.