McKethan Stadium has yet to host a game without the No. 1 ranked team in the country on the field but for the first time in 2016 that team wasn’t the Gators.
Behind a career-high 4-4 night from Jonathan India and a Peter Alonso home run, the No. 2 Florida Gators (25-3, 5-2 SEC) bested the Texas A&M Aggies (22-4, 4-3 SEC) 7-4 on Friday.
Logan Shore earned the start and struck out the first two batters he faced, but needed 19 pitches to do so. Shore gave up a hit during the scoreless first frame, throwing 25 pitches total.
“The thing about Logan is he made pitches when he needed to,” O’Sullivan said. “Obviously it wasn’t his best start, but he made some pitches when he needed to and didn’t let them touch home plate when he was out there.”
Florida went quietly in the first and Shore threw another zero on the board in the second before the previously dormant Gators bats awoke. Deacon Liput led the inning off with a double and scored two batters later when Jeremy Vasquez doubled. India collected his first of four hits on the night, a double, that plated Vasquez.
The Gators’ continued to chip away at a talented Texas A&M pitching staff. Pete Alonso hit a solo home run in the third inning and India doubled home Nelson Maldonado in the fourth, Giving Florida 4-0 advantage.
Shore carried the 4-run lead, despite not having his best stuff, into the fifth inning. Shore struck out J.B. Moss, who entered the game with a team-high .410 batting average before getting into trouble. Shore surrendered back-to-back-to-back singles before coach Kevin O’Sullivan made the call to the bullpen, bringing in Kirby Snead.
“Bases load, four run lead, I just wanted to throw strikes and get Logan out of that jam,” Snead said. “The first batter swung at a 2-0 pitch, I was able to make a play at home, and the next batter swung at the first pitch and grounded out.”
Snead’s clutch pitching kept the Florida advantage at four and ensured that Shore would finish the night without a run on his record.
“That was probably the turning point in the game,” said O’Sullivan. “I think is A&M hits a ball in the gap there, who knows what happens.”
The offense came alive again in the sixth inning. Jeremy Vasquez walked and then hustled all the way to third on a Nelson Maldonado single to right field. India collected his third hit and third RBI of the night with a single to plate Vasquez. Two batters later Buddy Reed drove Maldonado home with a single and JJ Schwarz brought India home with a sacrifice fly.
Florida gave up one run in the seventh but carried a 6-1 lead into the ninth.
That’s when things got interesting. Too interesting for the 5,197 Orange and Blue clad faithful in the stands.
Frank Rubio, who had replaced Snead, gave up a one out RBI double and a two run home run, letting the Aggies come back and make it 7-4. Kevin O’Sullivan went to the bullpen, bringing in Scott Moss, but the lefty walked the first batter he faced on four pitches and his night was over. O’Sullivan then turned to close Shaun Anderson, as a six run lead had quickly turned into a save opportunity.
“ We certainly didn’t pitch very well out of the pen,” said O’Sullivan. “With a six run lead we should not have to use Anderson.”
Florida will go for the series win on Saturday and have the potential to take back its No. 1 ranking with a win, something not lost on the team.
“We just want to come out, do our thing and play like the team we are,” India said. “We lost the No. 1 team in the nation position and we’re trying to get it back this weekend.”