The North Florida Ospreys (6-8) had the tying run 90-feet from home in the ninth inning but Shaun Anderson was able to induce a ground ball to seal a 5-4 victory for the No. 1 Florida Gators (14-1). Freshman Jackson Kowar drew the start and earned his second win of the season, and had to work through adversity for the first time in his young career.
Kyle Brooks led the game off with a single and moved to second on Keith Skinner’s ground out to Kowar. Following a strikeout, Nick Karmeris’ single gave the Ospreys a quick 1-0 lead in the very first frame.
“I thought Jackson [Kowar] did very well,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “The only hiccup was there in the third inning. He had two outs, nobody on and walked a guy.”
Florida’s offense was quick to pick up the freshman with some clutch two-out hitting. Dalton Guthrie singled to start the game but was thrown out at second a batter later when Buddy Reed grounded into a fielder’s choice. Reed stole second before JJ Schwarz struck out. Pete Alonso worked a walk and Deacon Liput loaded the bases with an infield single. That brought Mike Rivera to the plate with the bases loaded and the sophomore didn’t disappoint. Rivera lined a ball into the left-center gap to clear the bases, recording his first triple of the season.
“It was a 3-2 count so I knew he was going to throw me a fastball,” Rivera said. “I know he didn’t want to walk me that early in the game so I was really just sitting fastball.”
Mark Kolozsvary added to the lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, but UNF was determined to stay in the game.
Skinner worked a two-out walk and was brought home by an Olmsted double into the right center gap.
“I give credit to North Florida, they really battled us,” pitcher Shaun Anderson said. “Their pitching was pretty good. Their hitters were really aggressive. They put up a good fight and it’s good to play teams like that.”
The Florida bats took a sleeping pill after the second inning. The Gators had the leadoff man reach base safely in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings but were not able to capitalize. Florida was able to push over an insurance run in the seventh inning, when Guthrie scored on a line drive from Schwarz that ricocheted off of pitcher Frank German’s glove. That run proved to be crucial as Florida Brady Singer, who replaced Kowar in the seventh found trouble in the eighth frame.
Singer walked the leadoff hitter and surrendered back-to-back hits, the second a double by Olmstead that scored Skinner. Kirby Snead replaced Singer with two on and no outs to face the left-handed hitting Karmeris. Snead did his job, striking his man out before Shaun Anderson replaced him. Anderson induced a ground ball, but it pushed another run across the plate for the Ospreys.
UNF would get the tying run just 90 feet away from home before Anderson was able to shut the door and earn the save.
Florida won both games that they played against UNF this season, the last of their double midweek slate for the 2016 season. Florida will host Harvard for a three-game tilt starting Friday night at McKethan Stadium.