Gators notch eighth-straight SEC win

A defensive replacement in the seventh inning, Ryan Larson stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the tenth inning with runners on first and second and two outs. Larson line a 1-1 offering back up the middle to score Zack Powers from second and walk the Florida Gators (30-15, 15-6 SEC) off with a 6-5 win and sweep over visiting Missouri (19-24, 6-15 SEC).

“It was awesome,” Larson said of the game winning hit. “It was a great feeling to end it there. I knew coming up [to bat] with two outs, it was either now or never. It was great.”

Florida has now won eight-consecutive conference games; sit alone atop the SEC baseball standings with a two-game cushion between them and South Carolina.

The Gators sprinted out of the gates on Sunday, scoring two runs in the first frame off of the bats of Taylor Gushue and Braden Mattson. Missouri would respond, getting to starter Danny Young in the second inning with three runs of their own. John Sternagel’s single in the bottom half of the frame scored Buddy Reed to tie the game before the Gator bats went into a lull.

Florida has attacked conference play this season but struggled during midweek game against anyone not named Florida State. For a while on Sunday, it looked like the conference urgency that Florida had shown all season long had left. Missouri added runs in the fifth and the sixth innings to take a two-run lead before the Florida bats finally woke up again.

Richie Martin led things off with a bunt single and advanced all the way to third base on a throwing error. Harrison Bader kept the ball rolling with a RBI single to center, trimming the Tiger lead to just one. Gushue singled to right-center, giving Florida men on the corners and no outs, chasing Missouri starter John Miles from the game. The pitching change had no affect on the hit parade, Mattson singled up the middle to score Bader to even things up at five apiece.

Both teams would threaten to take a lead in regulation but timely pitching and double plays kept both Florida and Missouri from crossing the plate.

“Obviously, it was a frustrating game in a lot of ways,” manager Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We had some opportunities, but, all in all, I was proud of the way we battled today. We didn’t strike out at all today and I think we only had one strikeout yesterday. We battled at the plate.”

That battle extended into extra innings, where Bobby Poyner — who came on in relief and threw four shutout innings — got a quick out before surrendering a walk and a base hit to give the Tigers two men on and hope.

“It was hot; it was a long day. I was just trying to make pitches to keep us in the ballgame and keep them from scoring,” Poyner said. “I knew if I kept it at a 5-5 score, we would be alright.”

And keep it 5-5 is just what he did, getting an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.

After two quick outs in Florida’s half of the inning, Zack Powers singled up the middle with two outs and stole second. Missouri elected to intentionally walk A.J. Puk to get to Larson. The freshman who began the season as the everyday guy in left field has only registered 60 at bats on the season, his last at bat was his biggest.

“I’m really happy for Ryan. He had two good at-bats and got on base twice. That’s not an easy situation to come into and be able to hold your composure and put a good swing on the ball,” O’Sullivan said. “That’s really all you’re looking for. You’re not necessarily looking for somebody to get a hit. You just want to get a good at-bat and I thought it was a really good at-bat.”

News and Notes

  • The win on Sunday improved Florida’s record in extra inning games to 6-2 on the season.
  • Zack Powers hit safely in all three games this weekend and is on a nine game hitting streak.
  • Florida is 11-1 in conference games at home this season.
  • The Gators have eight last-at-bat wins this season.
  • Florida did not strike out once on Sunday, the first time the team has accomplished the feat this season.
  • Florida will have the week off due to finals before traveling to Alabama for a three game series with the Crimson Tide.
  • Florida leads the SEC East and the SEC, currently holding a two-game advantage over South Carolina.
  • Florida’s win on Sunday gave them 30 on the season, one more win than they had all of last year and there is still a month of baseball left.

Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC