Walking up to the plate Wil Dalton’s name flashed on the scoreboard next to his batting average — .166. Dalton was 1-3 on the night but this at bat was bigger than any previous in the season. Florida trailed Miami 3-1 with the bases loaded and two outs.
“I got chills walking to the plate because I told some of the guys that they were gonna load the bases. I said someway, somehow the bases are going to be loaded here and I’m gonna split the game open.”
He quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole. Dalton laid off a breaking ball in the dirt before launching a ball into deep center over Tony Jenkins’ outstretched glove. Three runs came around to score giving the Gators their first lead of the game.
“I told myself this guy can’t beat me with anything hard,” Dalton said. “I told myself to sit back and if you hit it foul down the line, you hit it foul down the line but nothing is coming across this plate. That was my main focus, trying to stay behind the baseball, not get out front and not get antsy.
“It was the lack of fire. Somebody needed to start the intensity. We needed one little spark.”
Florida got that in the fourth inning. Tommy Mace hit Freddy Zamora and Adrian Del Castillo doubled to put two in scoring position. The Gators elected to intentionally walk Alex Toral. Mace got Raymond Gil to ground into an inning ending double play but a hard slide into second caused a brief, heated exchange between a few players. Both benches cleared briefly and that was the spark the Gators needed to wake up from a weeklong slumber.
“Toral and I had our conversation, I told myself this is it,” Dalton said. “I’m not leaving this field without Miami going home with a loss.”
At that point in the game the score was knotted 0-0. Mace went back out in the sixth inning and found trouble. The sophomore struck out the first two batters he faced on seven pitches but hit Del Castillo and walked Toral. Mace left a picth high and in the zone for Gil and the third baseman deposited the 1-2 offering into the stands for a three-run blast.
Florida responded with a run in the bottom of the inning but one felt like not enough after Langworthy’s double to start the inning and a Cory Acton triple produced just the lone run. Florida had been leaving runners on base at a torrid pace during a three-game skid and Saturday felt like a continuation.
Mace worked a clean seventh inning; his last and the Gators went back to work. Jud Fabian and Blake Reese were retired before Florida worked three walks to load the bases for Dalton. Freshman Kendrick Calilao doubled down the left field line to plate Dalton and extend the lead to 5-3.
The Gators added four more runs in the eighth inning to bust the game open. Acton and Fabian singled to start the inning and both scored when Brady McConnell singled up the middle. Calilao would drive home McConnell and Dalton, who walked earlier in the inning, with another hit. Freshman Nolan Crisp entered the game in the eighth inning and earned his third save of the season.
Florida has won five consecutive series against Miami dating back to 2013. The Gators will look to make it six on Sunday at 1 pm.
“It’s everything. We haven’t lost a series to Miami since I don’t know when,” Dalton said. I’m not losing to Miami.”