FAMU had the tying run 90-feet from home and Kodi Russ hit a ball back up the middle. Freshman pitcher Garrett Milchin was able to get his glove down just in time, trapping what would likely have been a game tying single and preserving an 8-7 win for the Florida Gators (31-13/13-8 SEC).
Milchin did it all for the Gators Tuesday, nothing his first career save as well as his first career home run, a three-run blast in the fourth inning.
“I think I’m gonna go with the homer,” Milchin said when asked which first of the night felt better. “The homer was cool. It was my first one as a Gator. They’re both cool, they both helped us get the win and that’s what really matters.”
Florida quickly found itself in a hole Tuesday night against the Rattlers. Freshman lefty Andrew Baker drew his first career start but struggled early.
Dalla Oliver singled to start the game before Baker struck out Aubr McCarthy. Oliver stole second and advanced to third on Wil McDaniel’s single to right field. Brian Davis singled to plate Oliver. Russ singled through the right side to score McDaniel and David scored on Garrett Wilkinson’s single. Four-straight singles after the first out and FAMU had built a healthy 3-0 lead.
The Gators trimmed the lead to 3-1 after Nelson Maldonado led the second inning off with a double and scored later on a throwing error by the catcher.
The Gators took the lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish, in the fourth inning, thanks to a pair of long balls and some timely hits.
Christian Hicks blasted his second home run of the season, a no-doubter to right field, to make the score 3-2. Ryan Larson singled up the middle and Keenan Bell was hit by a pitch to put two on for Milchin. Milchin, making just his 13th plate appearance of the season, was sitting dead red for a fastball.
“We had guys first and second so I was just looking for a ball inside that I could pull,” he said. “I just got a heater right there. It felt good off the bat. I didn’t know it was gone but it felt good off the bat.”
The home run gave Florida a 5-3 lead but they weren’t done yet. Deacon Liput followed Milchin’s home run with a double to left center, advanced to third on passed ball and scored when Austin Langworthy sent a deep fly ball to center field.
The Gators’ bullpen carried them throughout the rest of the game. Freshman Kirby McMullen replaced Baker in the top of the second and threw 3.1 innings. McMullen got into trouble in the fifth inning. After getting a quick out he walked McDaniel and allowed a hit to Davis. Kevin O’Sullivan replaced him with senior Frank Rubio but Rubio gave up two singles, allowing two runs to score before he was able to get out of the inning.
The Gators added two runs in the seventh, which turned out to be crucial, and it was Milchin, yet again, that provided a sacrifice fly to score Hicks that would give Florida its eighth and decisive run.
Rubio came back out in the ninth inning, eligible for a four-inning save, but was pulled after he gave up an 0-2 single to Octavio Moyer. Milchin quickly gave up two singles of his own, allowing a run to score and trim the lead to 8-6. A wild pitch advanced both runners into scoring position and a ground ball out to second allowed a second run and moved the tying run to third before Milchin made the last out of the game with a comebacker that he flipped to Hicks at first.
“He probably saved the game for us,” O’Sullivan said of Milchin.
Florida has played 22 one-run games this season, holding a 15-7 record in such games, including five wins in a row.
The Gators will host Jacksonville at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, a make up game from a February 22 rain out in Gainesville.