In line with school tradition, Ole Miss fans throw their drinks in the air after a Rebels home run, but the only thing pouring Saturday afternoon were Florida runs in a 9-4 victory to even the Southeastern Conference series vs. the Rebels.
Until the eighth inning, Florida managed two runs on nine hits.
Then, the offense erupted for a six-run outburst in which the Gators sent 10 batters to the plate.
Coach gets 200th career victory
An explosive inning is nothing new to top-ranked Florida (24-3, 6-2), which earned its 14th comeback victory this season.
With the win, Kevin O’Sullivan becomes the fastest UF coach to reach 200 victories in school history.
Patience was tested in the early going, he said.
“It was a frustrating first 17 innings in this series,” O’Sullivan told the IMG Gator Sports Network. “You’ve got to tip your cap to Ole Miss’s pitchers, but also to our hitters. We hung in there. A lot of guys had a hand in this one today.”
O’Sullivan changed the batting order after Ole Miss (19-8, 4-4) shutout Florida on three hits in the opener.
“We shuffled the lineup around a little bit,” O’Sullivan said. “There’s no demotion or anything like that. It’s just to see if we can get things going a little bit.”
For the first time all season, Nolan Fontana batted in the sixth spot, Daniel Pigott batted first and Preston Tucker followed in the two-hole.
The Gators responded with seven consecutive batters reaching base safely in the eighth inning.
An Austin Maddox leadoff single and a Fontana double gave Florida its ninth run-scoring opportunity of the game and freshman Casey Turgeon stepped to the plate with a chance to do what he has done all season: come through with the clutch hit.
His RBI single to centerfield tied the score at 3-all and brought a hot Vickash Ramjit to the plate with runners on first and third.
Ramjit hit the first pitch from Rebels reliever Dylan Chavez into the left field bullpen for a dramatic three-run home run.
Three home runs in eight SEC games ties Ramjit for first in the league for home runs in conference play.
The junior capitalized on his fourth-straight start in left field with a 3-for-5 performance at the plate.
Ramjit and Turgeon combined for six of a season-high 17 hits for the Gators.
Florida starting pitcher Brian Johnson plated the first run of the game with his first inning RBI single off Rebels starter R.J. Hively.
While rounding first base, Johnson tweaked his back, O’Sullivan said. Johnson pitched four innings on 51 pitches, but O’Sullivan pinch-hit Gushue for him for the rest of the game.
The Rebels had Johnson and the Gators reeling after a gut-wrenching fourth inning.
A two-run home run by Ole Miss catcher Will Allen, a Gainesville native, gave the Rebels a 2-1 lead.
Allen starred at Buchholz High School where he batted .465 and earned first team All-State 6A selections his junior and senior seasons.
Florida tied the game the next inning off a Taylor Gushue double, but found out yet again why the Rebels entered the weekend as the second-best hitting team in the SEC.
Rebels second baseman Alex Yarbrough singled off Steven Rodriguez in the bottom half of the fifth to grab the lead for the second time Saturday.
Yarbrough has four hits in two games vs. Florida.
After Rodriguez, Greg Larson held the Rebels scoreless over 1.2 innings.
Daniel Gibson, Johnny Magliozzi and Austin Maddox finished off the Rebels for Florida.
O’Sullivan called the outing by Larson and the six-run offensive outburst as the two keys to the victory.
“The fact of the matter is, we hung in there,” O’Sullivan said. “We showed some character today. It would’ve been very easy to hang our heads and not battle to the end, but credit our team. We hung in there, we battled and we scored seven runs in the last two innings.”
Florida attempts to win its seventh series to start the season and keep pace with 10th-ranked Kentucky in the SEC standings.
Sophomore Jonathon Crawford (2-1, 3.95) takes the hill Sunday for Florida and O’Sullivan hopes the Gators offense performs like it did at the end of Saturday’s game.
Ole Miss counters with sophomore right-hander Mike Mayers (2-2, 3.22).
“We are going to do everything we can,” O’Sullivan said. “The bottom line is we are going to need to continue to swing the bats well. Take those last two innings into the game tomorrow. Jon is going to have to give us a good start, which he is certainly capable of doing and we got plenty of bullpen. Everybody is available. We’ll do what we need to do to win tomorrow and hopefully clinch the series.”
Sunday’s series finale begin at 1:30 at Oxford-University Stadium.