The Florida Gators remained perfect on Saturday with a 15-5 win over USF. For six innings on Saturday Jack Leftwich was perfect. The junior right-hander faced 18 batters and sent 18 batters back to the dugout shaking their heads. It was a needed start for Leftwich after giving up six runs in four innings against Troy in his last start.
Leftwich was in total control to start the game. He located his fastball and mixed his pitches effectively keeping the USF batters on their heels.
“I was excited to get out here again and attack,” Leftwich said. “It’s easy to lose confidence after an outing like that (one against Troy). I need to still be confident. You need that as a pitcher. I worked on getting the ball down this week and using my changeup.”
Kevin O’Sullivan took his hitters to task after Friday’s game. He said after a big six-run first inning they lost focus, had bad swings and at-bats. That wouldn’t be the case Saturday.
The Gators jumped right on USF with a leadoff double by Jud Fabian. Two groundouts later and Fabian would score. The Gators added three runs in the second. Jacob Young and Nathan Hickey walked to start the frame. Young scored on Josh Rivera’s single and Cal Greenfield plated Hickey and Rivera with a single of his own.
Florida added one more run in the fourth and then three more in the fourth but the story was all Leftwich.
He only struck out five batters in his 6.2 innings but the Gators’ played good defense behind their starter and he cruised inning after inning perfect. In the sixth inning, Dontae Mitchell tried to reach base on a bunt. Leftwich fielded his position cleanly and made the play, but took exception to the tactic.
“Yeah, that was kind of stupid. That was cheap,” Leftwich said. “If they’re not going to hit it, why bunt? I got the kid out and I said something to him but it was fine.”
Leftwich was cruising through six. He was perfect. Nine outs away from history.
Then the Gators 20 minute, five-run, four-hit sixth inning. The sun set and it got cold. Normally during a long inning, Leftwich would throw and try to stay warm, but when you’re in the middle of a perfect game you don’t change anything.
“I’m always moving around. I want us to win but a 1-2-3 would be great. I want to stay hot,” he said. “That last inning was really long and I didn’t want to throw because I hadn’t been doing that all day and I wanted to keep doing the same thing. In hindsight I should have because when I got out there I was kinda cold.”
Cold indeed. Leftwich walked Jordan Santos to start the 7th, it was the first time a he had even gone to a three-ball count against a batter. Nick Gonzalez ripped a single up the middle two pitches later. Just like that the perfect game and no-hitter were gone. Two batters later the shutout would go as well.
Leftwich got two outs before Kevin O’Sullivan pulled him in favor of Justin Alintoff. His line won’t show how dominant he was but Leftwich was in control for 6.1 innings Saturday.
“There’s a lot of pride there,” O’Sullivan said of Leftwich. “His line doesn’t speak for how he threw today with the three runs there in the seventh. He’s competitive. He and Tommy know the reputation we have pitching-wise here and those are two guys that they expect a lot from themselves. I was pleased with how Jack bounced back today after last weekend.”
Nathan Hickey hit a home run. The freshman has a home run in three consecutive games and. He’s hitting .500 (5-10) with three home runs, three runs scored and five RBI in his last three games.
Jordan Butler hit his second home run of the week on Saturday and brought his average up to .400 on the year. He’s hitting a cool .538 this week with nine RBI.
Jacob Young is still streaking. The sophomore hit safely in his 16th consecutive game. Young was 3-3 Saturday and leads the team with a .463 average.