An uncharacteristically wild night for the Florida Gators pitchers resulted in a season-high 10 walks and nine runs in a 9-7 loss on the road at UCF on Tuesday night.
Five of the 10 batters that walked scored.
“For whatever reason we just weren’t able to finish innings,” manager Kevin O’Sullivan said. “All nine runs we gave up were with two outs and obviously with that many walks we’re not going to be able to be successful.”
The Gators started the night with a bang. For the second time since he was moved to the leadoff spot Florida Gators outfielder Wil Dalton led a game off with a home run. Tuesday night in Orlando Dalton did it on the very first pitch he saw from UCF starter JJ Montgomery.
The junior from Indianapolis, Indiana settled down after that first pitch of the game and struck out four of the next six batters he faced. The Gators would get back on the board in the third inning starting with a one out hit from Nick Horvath.
Horvath singled up the middle before Dalton recorded the second out of the inning. That’s when a UCF error ignited a two-out rally. With a hit-and-run on Nelson Maldonado lined a ball through the left side. UCF left fielder Tyler Osik came up but watched the ball roll under his glove allowing Horvath to score and Maldonado to advance to second. JJ Schwarz lined a ball back up the middle to score Maldonado and give Florida a 3-0 advantage.
The Knights responded with a huge inning of their own in the third. Freshman starter Jack Leftwich retired the first two batters he faced before a string of singles and walks derailed Florida and his night. UCF scored six runs on five hits and three walks in the inning. UCF added two more runs the next inning off of Andrew Baker to extend the lead to 5-3.
The Gators got back into it in the sixth inning. Schwarz led the frame off with a double and India walked. Montgomery served up a thigh high fastball to Kennan Bell, who sent a towering shot to right field for a three-run home run, bringing the score to 8-6. Another base runner reached with no outs but Florida couldn’t muster up anything else in the frame.
Nelson Maldonado hit a solo home run in the ninth inning to close the lead to 9-7 but that’s all Florida could muster.
“There really wasn’t any (quit), there wasn’t,” O’Sullivan said. “We just dug ourselves a huge hole on the mound the first four innings. I thought the energy in the dugout was good the whole game.”
The Gators will host UCF at McKethan Stadium on Wednesday with first pitch scheduled for 6 p.m.
Schwarz with a career milestone
JJ Schwarz drove in his 200th RBI Tuesday. Here’s the list Gators career RBI leaders
1. Preston Tucker – 258
2. Brad Wilkerson – 214
3. Matt LaPorta – 206
4. JJ Schwarz – 200