Special report on the Florida Gators baseball team:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 14 Florida used strong pitching performances from Hunter Barco and Jack Leftwich to take game three and claim the series against No. 2 Vanderbilt by a score of 5-3. The Gators (30-13, 13-8) are just the second team to post a series victory against the Commodores (32-9, 14-7) this season.
Offensively, Florida was led by Kris Armstrong (2-for-3) and Sterlin Thompson (1-for-3). Armstrong was the lone Gator to collect multiple hits in the game, while Thompson paced the team with two RBI.
The Florida offense picked up right where it left off following an 11-run barrage in game two, plating a pair of runs in the first to jump out to a 2-0 lead. After a Jacob Young leadoff single, Armstrong came up clutch with a two-out, RBI double to right field. Kirby McMullen then proceeded to drive in Armstrong with a single to left center.
Vanderbilt responded in the top of the second, as Isaiah Thomas homered to straightaway left field to cut the Gator lead to 2-1. Florida answered back in the third, with Thompson bringing in two with an RBI single to center before Young made it a 5-1 game with an RBI fielder’s choice to shortstop in the fourth.
In the fifth and sixth innings, Vanderbilt pushed two runs across to cut the Florida advantage to 5-3. That score held for the duration of the contest, as the relief trio of Christian Scott, Trey Van Der Weide and Leftwich combined for 3.2 innings of scoreless relief.
The bulk of the relief came from Leftwich, who entered in the seventh and retired eight of nine batters to close out the game and earn the save. Leftwich finished with 2.2 innings pitched, allowing just one hit and striking out three.
Starting on the mound for the Gators, Barco pitched 5.1 innings and allowed three earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out seven. The outing marked Barco’s fifth game with seven or more strikeouts this season and his first since striking out nine against Texas A&M on March 20.
Vanderbilt starter Chris McElvain was saddled with the loss, tossing three innings and surrendering five earned runs on five hits and four walks, striking out four.
* Florida joins Georgia as one of two teams to claim series victories over Vanderbilt this season.
* With the game three win, the Gators have now won 12 of their last 16 games including nine of their last 11.
* The Gators now own five wins against top-five ranked teams this season.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN
On seeing what he wanted to see from his pitchers from an emotion standpoint…
“Yeah, I would agree with that. We’ve all been waiting for this team to have a weekend like this. Now, hopefully they know what it feels like and what it’s supposed to look like against a team like this. It was a really good weekend.”
On Kris Armstrong’s weekend…
“He was outstanding. We’ve used a lot of different lineups throughout the year. Obviously, today we used the same lineup as yesterday, and this might be something we stick with for a while. I thought Kris was outstanding all weekend long.”
On Leftwich entering in a high-leverage situation and getting more comfortable in those spots…
“It doesn’t get more difficult than the one he came into with runners on second and third with one out, and he gets a pop-up and strikeout to end the inning. He’s at a point now where I feel comfortable putting him in any situation. Earlier on, we tried to be more careful about putting him in a situation where he felt comfortable, at the start of the inning or pitching out of the windup, but we feel confident putting him in any situation now.”
Florida hosts Stetson on Tuesday at 6 p.m. ET in the team’s second-to-last midweek contest of the season.