The score was 3-0 heading into the seventh inning before Vanderbilt pushed across a run in the top half of the frame to make it 3-1. Then Florida sent 11 batters to the plate and six two-out hits to pound out seven runs on the way to a 10-2 series clinching win over Vanderbilt.
Two out hitting was the theme of the day for Florida. The Gators (24-5, 6-2 SEC) were able to score nine of their 10 runs with two outs and hit 9-17 (.529) with two outs on Saturday.
“I think in years past when we’ve been really good offensively we’ve hit well with two outs,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We’ve had some really quality at bats and those innings don’t come around too often but we had eight guys reach base with two outs.”
There’s something about a Jackson Kowar start that gets the bats going. Kowar leads all starters in run support, getting an average of nine runs a game. His teammates don’t have an explanation. Kowar isn’t hoarding all the good bats in his apartment and bringing them on only games where he starts. He’s also not going to complain about getting run support.
“I don’t know what’s going on. It’s been a little ridiculous lately,” Kowar said of the run support. “I’m not complaining though. I think what’s overlooked is they also play phenomenal defense out there too. I can’t say that enough.”
Kowar was locating his fastball early but didn’t have a great feel for his changeup. That and some command issues led to a labored first couple of innings, specifically the third. Kowar got two outs but fell behind 2-1 and 3-1 to those batters. He went full on the next batter, who singled, and then fell behind 3-0 before a four-pitch walk and 3-1 before a foul out to get out of the inning. His frustration showed as he walked off the mound.
“It’s just a little frustrating falling behind a lot of hitters and getting into hitter’s counts and getting that pitch count elevated,” Kowar said of that third inning. “As a starter your job is to go deep into games and keep your team in games. Having that pitch count elevated and just not really throwing that many competitive pitches kind of frustrated me.”
Playing just twelve and a half hours after the Friday’s series opener, the Gator offense gave Kowar a first inning lead when JJ Schwarz singled home two in the first inning. Schwarz would be apart of the Gators big seventh inning with a RBI double. The three RBI moved Schwarz ahead of Brad Wilkerson for second place on the Gators’ career RBI list and earned him a souvenir. Kevin O’Sullivan presented him with the lineup card from the game, something he did for Michael Byrne Friday night when Byrne broke the career saves record.
“I gave the lineup card to Michael for breaking the saves record and less than 24 hours late I’m giving one to JJ for being second all-time in RBIs, surpassing the Gator great Brad Wilkerson,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s been a special couple nights and it’s been fun to see.”
The game remained close into the seventh inning where Florida broke it open. Five different batters recorded a RBI, including Keenan Bell — who came into the game hitting .212 — who launched a three-run home run.
Florida will look to sweep Vanderbilt at noon on Sunday.