JJ Schwarz came a home run away from being the first player to ever hit for the cycle in the SEC Tournament as the Florida Gators beat Mississippi State 12-2 via run rule in seven innings on Friday night.
JJ Schwarz doubled home a run in the first inning against LSU in the Florida Gators first SEC Tournament game. Schwarz went 0-3 with a walk after that. The Gators had been sporting postseason facial hair, and Schwarz was doing his best to play along with some blonde stubble above his upper lip. The loss brought out a razor, and with it Schwarz’s bat. The sophomore is 6-8 with two runs and five RBI with a baby face. Schwarz credits an adjustment rather than a clean shave for the turnaround.
“It’s something I’ve been working on the past few weeks,” he said on SEC Network. “Just keeping my front side in”
Florida jumped on Mississippi State starter Austin Sexton early. Schwarz doubled with one out to score Buddy Reed, who singled to start the game, giving the Gators a 1-0 advantage. The Bulldogs answered with a run of their own when Nathaniel Lowe and Gavin Collins hit back-to-back doubles.
Florida continued to tee off on Sexton. Deacon Liput led off with a single and advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt. Jeremy Vasquez moved Liput to third with a single and Nelson Maldonado brought him in with a single to left. Buddy reed singled to score Vasquez and Dalton Guthrie lofted a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Maldonado. Buddy Reed stole second and scored again off the bat of JJ Schwarz. Florida sent nine batters to the plate, scoring four runs on six hits, taking a 5-1 lead.
Florida tacked on a run in the fourth when Schwarz collected his third RBI, another single, plating Maldonado and Danny Reyes singled in the fifth to score Liput.
Meanwhile, Alex Faedo was exercising demons on the mound. The last time Faedo faced the Bulldogs they touched him for 10 hits and nine runs in five innings, handing Faedo his lone loss of the season. Faedo threw a complete game; scattering seven hits and allowed just the two runs while striking out five.
“I just told the guys that’s the most live our dugouts been in a while,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “They had fun tonight.”
Buddy Reed walked to start the sixth inning and Schwarz tripled to right-center, bringing him just a home run shy of the cycle.
“After I slid into third I knew I had a shot,” he said. “The triple would be the hardest for me because I’m not fast. I was hoping I got a fastball over the plate the last at bat.”
The Gators posted four runs on two hits in the inning to take an 11-2 lead and pushed one more run across when freshman Blake Reese hit a pinch hit double to score Maldonado. Faedo gave up a single and two wild pitches moved Stovall to third but the sophomore righty held on to finish the game out and advance Florida to a rematch with LSU on Saturday.
The Tigers plan to throw Caleb Gilbert and O’Sullivan said he will “likely” throw lefty Scott Moss, even though Logan Shore has expressed his desire to pitch in the tournament despite battling a stomach ailment.