With runners on second and third with one out in the eighth inning, Andy Warren thought he had driven home the tying run with his fly ball to right field. It certainly looked deep enough to bring home the runner from third base but Florida’s Jonathan Pigott had other ideas. He made the routine catch in right field and then unleashed a missile to home plate that catcher Teddy Foster caught chest high. Foster applied the tag at home to preserve the Gators’ 3-2 win over the University of North Florida at McKethan Stadium.
“God blessed me with a pretty good arm,” Pigott said. “So I just keep throwing and keep it healthy.”
Pigott’s defensive gem saved Florida’s third straight win, improving the Gators to 23-10on the season. Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said the catch, throw and tag at home were the way the play is supposed to be made.
“That was the key to the game,” O’Sullivan said. “The outfielders are taught that if it’s the tying or go ahead run [at third], make sure the throw is in the air and throw it on the third base side. If that throw is on the first base side and he’s got to reach over and bring it back, he’s probably safe. It was very well executed.”
A big defensive play and good pitching carried the Gators on this night when the offense couldn’t get much going. O’Sullivan realizes that the team has to get better offensively with a big three-game SEC series against Arkansas this weekend.
“We’re going to have to do a better job,” O’Sullivan said. “But you’ve got to tip your hat. They made pitches when they needed to. We’ve got some work to do offensively with not having (Brandon) McArthur in the lineup.”
Florida’s pitching staff certainly did their part. Starter Stephen Locke, on a pitch count of 50, went three innings, giving up one unearned run. Travis Lawler came in relief to throw 3.2 innings, also allowing one unearned run. Tony Davis and Clint Franklin went the last 2.1 innings, giving up two hits and zero runs. Franklin earned the save.
“It’s a team effort, just like it was today,” Lawler said. “We each have to come in and pick up each other. It’s a long season and you can’t have your best stuff every single outing. We’ve got to help each other up when we fall.”
O’Sullivan was happy with the performance from his pitchers in Tuesday and Wednesday’s games. Kyle Mullaney’s six innings Tuesday put the team in good shape for the weekend series when the Gators will need all their available arms against a very good Arkansas team.
North Florida took the lead in the first The Osperys took the lead in the first inning, but the Gators struck back in their half. Avery Barnes led off with a single, stole second and moved to third on a wild throw. He came home on Jon Townsend’s ground out to shortstop
Florida got the runs it needed to win in the second. Pigott led off with a walk. One out later he stole second and came home on a single to left by Clayton Pisani. Foster’s tapper to the pitcher was thrown into center field, advancing Pisani to third. Barnes hit a sacrifice fly to left to drive home Pisani.
The Gators begin their series with Arkansas Friday night with Billy Bullock taking the mound. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30.