After dropping two of three games to Vanderbilt over the weekend, the Florida Gators (35-18) bounced back with their first midweek win in almost a month with an 8-2 win over USF (25-27) on Tuesday night. The Gators were powered by a five-run second inning that proved to be all the offense Florida would need to walk away with the victory.
Freshman right-hander Brett Morales earned the start — one that proved to be rocky. Morales surrendered back-to-back singles to start the game and gave up a run when Luke Borders lined a no-out double into right center. Morales would load the bases but worked out of the inning with just one run given up.
The Gators bounced back in the bottom half of the frame when Richie Martin came home on a wild pitch. Morales surrendered another run in the second inning on a Kyle Teaf single that brought around Buddy Putnam to put the Bulls back on top.
That’s when the Gators’ offense exploded for more runs than they mustered in all three games last weekend versus Vanderbilt.
Ryan Larson singled to open the frame. Buddy Reed laid down a would be sacrifice bunt, but an errant throw allowed Larson to come around to score and Reed to take third base. John Sternagel popped up before a walk and a hit batter loaded the bases for Harrison Bader. Bader cleared the bases with a single swing of the bat, winding up at second himself. Bader crossed the plate two batter later on a Peter Alonso double to right.
“I thought Harrison’s [Bader] at bat was the probably the biggest with the bases loaded and kind of helped us relax and settle in,” manager Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game.
With a 6-2 lead, O’Sullivan turned to left-hander Danny Young in the top of the third inning. Young would work two innings of scoreless ball before giving way to freshman Kirby Snead. Snead has anther great outing, tossing 3.1 innings, giving up three hits while striking out two.
“He eats up a lot of quick outs. Most guys, they throw three and third and they’re looking at 45 or 50 pitches,” O’Sullivan said of his freshman lefty. “You know, he threw 30 (pitches) to get 10 outs.”
The Gators would tack on two more runs via a Braden Mattson sacrifice fly in the sixth inning and a wild pitch that scored Richie Martin in the eighth.
The Gators needed a win to get back on track before their final SEC series of the season this weekend in Knoxville.
At 19-8 in the SEC, Florida holds an insurmountable three-game lead over South Carolina but have not clinched the outright SEC title for the season. They’ll need to take at least one game against the Volunteers this weekend to ensure at least a tie of the SEC regular season title. Winning two games this weekend would give Florida the outright regular season title and the top seed heading into the SEC tournament.
“We want to have momentum going into Tennessee. We should go in and try to win every game,” Martin said. “If we do that, we put our destiny in our own hands. This is the biggest series of the season so far. We want to win as many games as we can this weekend and then carry that into the postseason.”