The Florida Gators remained perfect at 16-0 Sunday and Nathan Hickey’s week couldn’t have been any better.
The freshman touched them all for a fourth consecutive game, giving Florida a 2-1 lead that proved to be the final score. Hickey finished the week hitting .538 (7-13) with four home runs and six RBI.
“I got chills running around the bases,” Hickey said after the game. “Ever since I was a freshman (in high school) coming here I’ve been picturing myself doing something like that. For it to actually happen was mind-blowing.”
The eighth inning started off strangely. With the score knotted at 1 and one out, Jacob Young grounded a ball out to shortstop and was called out on a bang-bang play at first. After a lengthy review, the call was confirmed and Florida seemingly had the wind knocked out of them. One swing later Hickey got a belt-high fastball and knew exactly what to do with it.
“He’s a little hot, huh? Wow,” Young said of Hickey. “He just needed to slow down a little bit, get his pitches and see the ball more.”
It’s safe to say he’s seeing the ball well now.
The starting pitchers ruled the day. Hunter Barco drew his third-straight Sunday start and continued to look comfortable in the role. The freshman walked one in the first inning but retired the side with ease. Barco walked another in the second and had a throwing error that, instead of getting out of the inning, created a second and third scenario but he again escaped without allowing a run. Barco retired the next nine batters he faced, five via strikeout before losing his no-hitter in the sixth inning
“I thought Barco pitched like a veteran today,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He looked like he was in cruise control.”
USF starter Carson Ragsdale came out of the gate hot. The redshirt junior struck out nine of the first 13 batters he faced before Jacob Young singled up the middle to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. Hickey followed Young with a single of his own, moving Young to third base where he would late score the first run of the game on a wild pitch.
USF tied the game in the sixth inning. Nick Gonzalez led the frame off with a single up the middle and was moved into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. JD Dutka doubled down the third-base line to bring Gonzalez home. Barco settled down and got out of the inning but that would end his day.
Christian Scott took over in the seventh inning and worked two scoreless frames. Scott continues to be a rock in the Gators’ bullpen and now has a scoreless innings streak of 6.1, and has only allowed three hits, while striking out eight in that span.
Florida turned to Ben Specht in the ninth inning and the sophomore picked up his third save of the year.
The Gators have a big week ahead. Florida will host Florida State on Tuesday before kicking off conference play with Georgia at home.