Six Florida Gators had struck out before JJ Schwarz lined a fastball into right field to start an eighth inning rally. A single and two walks later and the Gators pushed a run across the board when Christian Hicks’ bases loaded walk plated Schwarz to give Florida a 5-4 lead.
Michael Byrne came on in the ninth inning and closed the game out. The save was Byrne’s 14th of the season, a new Florida single season record.
The No. 1 seeded Gators received a first round bye in the SEC tournament and were presented with a trophy honoring their regular season co-SEC championship (split with LSU)
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 25, 2017
Due to a rain delay, and the trophy presentation, the first pitch wasn’t thrown until 10:45 ET (9:45 local) and both teams would have to play through rain and tension throughout the evening.
This would be a second chance at the Tigers, who swept Florida in the first weekend of conference play, and a chance for Alex Faedo to avenge the worst start of his season. Faedo gave up six earned runs over 4.1 innings in his last start against Auburn, earning his first loss of the season.
The junior wasn’t going to let that happen again.
Faedo gave up a hit in each of the first two innings but stranded both runners and struck out three. He gave up two more hits in the third inning but stranded both runners, while adding another strikeout to his tally and get out of a jam in the top of the third. Florida would strike first in the bottom half of the inning.
Mike Rivera, playing in his first game since breaking his hamate bone on April 11, grounded to second base with one out, but a throwing error allowed him to reach base and take second. Deacon Liput drove Rivera in three pitches later with a single up the middle.
“It was just a blessing,” Rivera told Laura Rutledge on the SEC Network broadcast after the game. “People sometimes take it for granted that you’re playing every single day and I think it was a good, well not really a good setback, but I did learn a little bit; just to appreciate the little things and appreciate your teammates, most importantly.”
Florida went quietly the rest of the third inning but struck back in a big way in the fourth.
JJ Schwarz blasted a hanging breaking ball down the right field line for a one-out single. Nelson Maldonado flew out for the second out of the inning and the rally was on. Jonathan India drove Schwarz in with a RBI single and advanced to second on the throw home. Christian Hicks traded places with India, extending the lead to 3-0. Mark Kolozsvary made it three hits in a row with two outs and drove Hicks in with a single to left field and Rivera singled to center, the Gators’ fourth hit in a row with two outs before the Tigers could get out of the inning trailing 4-0.
Faedo worked in and out of trouble. He stranded six Tiger base runners in six innings and took the mound in the seventh with 92 pitches. Faedo wasn’t long for the seventh. Blake Logan singled to start the inning and Bowen McGuffin drew a walk. After 106 pitches Kevin O’Sullivan turned to his bullpen and Frank Rubio. Rubio threw just three pitches, got his ground ball, but India’s throwing error allowed Jonah Todd to get to second and Logan to score, 4-1 Gators. Nick Horvath replaced Rubio on the mound but gave up a walk and a double that cut the lead to 3-4. Tyler Dyson took over for Horvath but his second pitch missed its mark, allowing Will Holland to score from third tying the game.
After the three-spot in the fourth the Florida bats went dormant. The Gators had just one hit over the next three innings compared to five strikeouts. Schwarz, who finished the night 2-3 with two runs scored, fueled the eighth inning rally that gave Florida its 5-4 win. Tyler Dyson earned the win, his second of the season.
The Gators will get Thursday off before returning to the diamond, where they will play the winner of Arkansas-Mississippi State. Sophomore Brady Singer is scheduled to start.