The No. 5 Florida Gators used 12 hits and three home runs to power a 10-5 win on Sunday, completing a three-game sweep of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The win was Florida’s 10th consecutive league win since falling to 9-8 in the SEC after a loss to South Carolina back on April 21. Since that loss the Gators (38-14/ 19-8 SEC) are 12-1. They’ve won their last five SEC weekend series (Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama)
Jackson Kowar, who has yet to lose a game in two seasons at Florida, fell behind quickly when Chandler Avant led the game off with a triple. Kowar got an out before walking Chandler Taylor, the first of a season-high six walks on the day, and giving up a run on a sacrifice fly.
“I really thought that Jackson battled today,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “After giving up a run in the first he battled there and we played good defense behind him the whole day.”
Kowar worked out of the first frame and was quickly picked up by the Gator bats. Nelson Maldonado drew the first of his three walks on the day to start the second, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on Jonathan India’s double down the left field line. India scored when Mark Kolozsvary reached on a throwing error by Tanner DeVinny to give Florida a 2-1 lead.
As Kowar settled in, the Gator bats were just getting going. Florida scored runs in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, building a 7-1 lead.
Maldonado was the catalyst, again, in the third inning drawing a one-out walk and stealing second. Maldonado advanced to third on Austin Langworthy’s groundout and scored on a wild pitch. The sophomore outfielder drove in two runs in the fourth inning with a single into shallow left field, making the score 5-1. Deacon Liput drove Kolozsvary in with a single to left in the fifth and Dalton Guthrie added to the lead with a solo home run, his fourth of the season, in the sixth inning.
Despite walking six batters, Kowar allowed just two hits and the one run heading into the seventh inning.
“(We) tried to get him through the seventh because I thought he earned the right to get through that inning and try to finish the seventh,” said O’Sullivan.
Kowar wouldn’t make it through the seventh. DeVinny struck out before Kowar walked Sam Finnerty on four pitches. Kowar got the second out with a strikeout but a double and another walk loaded the bases. Cobie Vance plated three with a double down the left field line, cutting the lead to just 7-5 and Kowar’s day was done, replaced by Nick Horvath. Vance scored when JJ Schwarz’s throw to third on a steal attempt sailed into left field, making the score 7-6, but the catcher would make up for the gaff.
Ryan Larson singled through the left side before Guthrie popped out to bring Schwarz to the plate. Schwarz worked a 2-0 count and uncorked a fastball out of the park in left field, his 10th of the season. Maldonado followed Schwarz with a home run, the first back-to-back home runs for the Gators since 2012.
“The biggest thing of the day was the offense. We answered every time, gave up a run in the first and scored two in the second. The run in third and two runs in the fourth I think were two outs, nobody on,” O’Sullivan said. “Then we gave up four in the bottom of the seventh and answered back with three more in the top of the eighth.”
Horvath and freshman Garrett Milchin 2.1 innings of shutout ball to help Florida maintain its one game lead over LSU and Kentucky in the SEC. The Gators can clinch the SEC regular season title this weekend when they host Kentucky.
“Can’t ask for anything more,” said O’Sullivan. “We’re playing for a chance to win the SEC regular season and we’ve got a one-game lead with three to go at home.”