CORAL GABLES, FL — The night started off as confusing for the Florida Gators as it could. Potential No. 1 over pick in the MLB Draft Brady Singer wasn’t even 10 pitches into his second outing of the season and the junior had already given up two extra base hits, including a two run home run.
By the time Singer was able to get the third out of the Miami Hurricanes (2-3) had a 3-0 lead and already tagged Singer for five hits, three more than he’d given up in seven innings last Friday.
It led to a meeting with catcher JJ Schwarz, Kevin O’Sullivan and Singer in the dugout in the middle of the inning.
“Nothing that I can say during media,” Schwarz said when asked what that meeting sounded like. “We did have to go back to the drawing board and chalk something up. They had a good plan for Brady in the first inning and we had to change it up since they were on him from the get go.”
The Gators were shocked. It’s not often Singer gets touched up like that. Only once (against Arkansas in the SEC Tournament last season) in his two-plus year career has he been hit like he was in the first inning. Florida wouldn’t remain shell-shocked for long.
In their second trip to the plate the Gators started to chip away at the Miami lead. Nick Horvath took a Jeb Bargfeldt fastball high and over the wall in left field, a two-run shot and his first of the season. Horvath did it again in the fourth inning.
Keenan Bell collected the second of his three hits on the night with one out. Blake Reese lined a fastball into the left center gap to give the Gators two runners in scoring positions to bring Horvath up to the plate. He watched a ball off the plate before turning on the 1-0 fastball, shooting it past the outstretched glove of Michael Perez at third base for a double that scored two and gave Florida a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The four RBIs are a career high for the senior.
Not to be outdone by the only other senior on the roster, Schwarz got in on the act in the fifth with a mammoth solo home run that ricocheted high off of the light pole to the left of Miami’s iconic left field scoreboard.
Singer would last five full innings, he tried bargaining to get a go at the sixth inning but at 95 pitches O’Sullivan made the call to end the junior’s night.
Freshman Tommy Mace took over in the sixth for just his third appearance of the season. Mace had thrown an inning against Siena and one against FAU but this was his first appearance on the road and the Miami crowd was into the game.
“I expected the hype, the rivalry was one of a kind. It was awesome,” he said.
He was awesome.
One batter reached on an error in the sixth but Mace retired the side otherwise. He did the same on 11 pitches in the seventh. The eighth was a repeat of the sixth where a batter reached on an error but Mace worked around it again. He walked a batter in the ninth but earned his first save. He worked quickly and frustrated Hurricane batters.
O’Sullivan admitted he only planned for Mace to go two innings and then he’d figure it out. If things got dicey he would have gone to Michael Byrne, but the closer threw on Tuesday and Wednesday so O’Sullivan wanted to avoid it if possible. Mace made it completely unnecessary for Byrne to even be in Miami.
“I mean, we haven’t had many freshmen come down here in an environment like this and not give up a hit and go four scoreless,” O’Sullivan said. “I think he had one walk there in the ninth but he was just outstanding. He’s mature beyond his years.”
The Gators added two more runs in the eighth inning to extend their lead to 7-3, which would hold on to give them game one of the series.
Florida has had the Miami’s number of late. The Gators have won 10 of the last 12 and 24 of the last 29 meetings against Jim Morris’ ball club.
The Gators and Hurricanes will play the second game of their series Saturday night (7 pm) before closing out the weekend Sunday at noon.