Fourth inning explosion lifts Florida Gators baseball to win over Ole Miss

The No. 7 Florida Gators (33-13, 14-8 SEC) defeated the Ole Miss Rebels (29-18, 11-11 SEC) 11-2 at home on Friday night in what head coach Kevin O’Sullivan called the most complete game his team has played all year.
The offense that sparked the most complete game of the year might not have come so easily without the best at bat of the year from Christian Hicks. No, it wasn’t a home run. Not even a base hit. It was a walk. A 15 pitch walk in the fourth inning that set the tone for the entire night.
The Gators struggled to find any kind of offense the first time around the order, failing to reach base in the first three innings. Ole Miss pitcher James McArthur had Florida’s number, or so it seemed.
Dalton Guthrie singled to center field with one out in the bottom of the fourth. Austin Langworthy and JJ Schwarz followed behind with walks to load the bases with two outs. After striking out his first at bat, Hicks came to the plate in a huge RBI situation.
He got down 0-2, but that was just the beginning of his battle. Hicks was zoned in on what McArthur was throwing his way, fouling off pitches left and right, putting several souvenirs in the stands. As the at bat went on, the crowd got louder and louder. Everyone was on their feet in the fourth inning of a nine-inning game.
After seeing 16 pitches and fouling off 10 of them, Hicks finally drew the walk to score Guthrie for Florida’s first run of the game.
The very next at bat, Ryan Larson stepped to the plate and got in a 1-2 count before sending a grand slam into the left field bleachers.
McArthur was obviously shaken up, but he was left in the game long enough for the Gators to plate two more runs off him. Jonathan India singled, stole second base and was driven in by a Keenan Bell single to left center. Bell repeated the steps to steal and score on a Deacon Liput single. The seven-run inning was finally put to an end when Liput was caught stealing.
Just before the explosion that was the bottom of the fourth inning, starting pitcher Alex Faedo had to get out of what was his only jam of the night. After a leadoff walk and a single to start off the fourth inning, Faedo got a fly out and back to back strikeouts to shut the Rebels’ short lived rally down.
“That was huge because I knew that was a long inning and defenders get antsy out there and their legs probably start getting tired,” said Faedo. “So I was just happy I could put a zero up on the board and they picked me up by putting a 7-spot right after that.”
Faedo threw six shutout innings, striking out nine Ole Miss batters and only giving up three hits to move to 7-1 on the mound this year.
The Gators tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning with hits from Guthrie, Langworthy and Nelson Maldonado. Guthrie scored his second run of the night on Langworthy’s RBI double and Maldonado singled Langworthy in to put Florida up 9-0.
Maldonado added some more icing to the cake with a no-doubt homer over the left field bleachers in the seventh. Bell, who was 2-for-4 on the night doubled to left center in the bottom of the eighth. He advanced to third on a Liput ground out and Guthrie hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score him to make it 11-0 going to the ninth. Guthrie finished the night 3-for-4 at the plate.
Tyler Dyson came in to pitch the seventh and eighth innings for the Gators and he was nearly untouchable. He faced the minimum of just six batters in his two innings on the mound, racking up five strike outs.
Cole Maye closed things out, giving up the shutout as TJ Miller hit a two-run homer in the top of the ninth, but that did not take away from the outstanding performance the Gators put on the field.
“The only negative about tonight is we can’t take any of these 11 runs into tomorrow so we’ve got to start over,” O’Sullivan said. “But I am pleased with how we’ve started to improve offensively, and it was a fun night. The crowd got into it, and the players got into it after that Christian Hicks at-bat. It was just awesome.
With the win, Florida tied Kentucky for the top spot in the SEC East and will look to take the series over Ole Miss in Game Two at McKethan Stadium at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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Bailiegh Williams
Growing up the daughter of a baseball coach in a household that revolved around Gators sports, Bailiegh’s future working in sports was her destiny. She played four years of varsity softball at Suwannee High School and one year on softball scholarship at Gulf Coast State College. In her first year she discovered a love for journalism so she packed her bags and moved to Gainesville to finish her A.A. and begin interning for Gator Country. She is now on track to graduate from the University of Florida in 2019. In her free time, Bailiegh enjoys binge watching her favorite TV shows and spending time with her family and her two fur babies.