By: Ryan Randall
After an opening-series loss to the Auburn Tigers (34-22, 13-17 SEC) Thursday, the Florida Gators (40-15, 19-11 SEC) responded with a 4-3 win Friday in which the team rallied back from a three-run deficit. Saturday’s rubber match would be a chance for Florida to not only win the series against the Tigers, but win the most regular season games in three years.
On Senior Day, Josh Tobias and Bobby Poyner would play major roles in Florida’s 3-1 win over the Tigers. Tobias went 2-3 with a home run and two RBIs, while Poyner closed out the game with his fourth save of the season.
Auburn scored first in the second inning as a wild pitch by Alex Faedo got away from catcher Mike Rivera and allowed Kyler Deese to reach home. Florida responded in the next at bat when Peter Alonso hit a solo home run that fought the wind along the right field foul line. Despite a review from officials, the call stood and Alonso had his third homer of the season.
Florida’s pitching struggled early for the second consecutive game of the series, but improved throughout the game. Faedo was inconsistent in finding location early on, but would gain control and retired nine consecutive batters after the wild pitch. After Auburn’s Cody Nulph broke the streak with a single to center field in the top of the fifth inning, Jackson Burgreen singled to third and Damon Haecker was walked. Faedo was replaced in the the top of the fifth inning by junior Taylor Lewis. Lewis continued the success seen by the Florida’s pitching earlier, only giving up two hits in four innings pitched.
The Gators would light up the scoreboard again in the bottom of the sixth inning. After Richie Martin reached first base off a fielding error by Deese, Tobias hit a home run to left center field. The two-run blast not only put the Gators up 3-1, but led to Auburn replacing pitcher Issac Yarbrough after two pitches.
While Florida would only amass two more hits after Tobias’ home run, the defense remained strong, holding Auburn to one after the sixth inning. With one out to go in the ninth inning, Poyner entered the game. The senior needed only two pitches to end the game, getting Burgreen to fly out to right field.
The Gators end the regular season with the most wins since 2012, the same year the Gators reached the College World Series. With the same ability to score in key moments and make top defensive plays like that year’s squad, the future —namely, Omaha—looks bright for the Gators.