The ball felt good off of his bat and it found the gap in right-center but there was only one thing on Isaac Nunez’s mind — finding his dad.
“My dad has been one of the biggest influences of my life. I saw him, he’s pointing at me, I’m pointing back at him. We made eye contact and it’s a great moment,” Nunez said. “We know how hard we worked together, not just me, not just him, together. It’s a very special moment for me.”
Nunez’s first hit of his career had just given the No. 2 Florida Gators a 4-3 win over Jacksonville in extra innings to keep the team a perfect 5-0 on the season.
The freshman entered the game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement but as the game continued into extra innings he walked up to the plate with two on and two outs. Nunez was just 0-2 walking up to the plate but came in with his head high, looking for one pitch.
“I know I’m going to sit fastball, it’s a new hitter. They’re not going to go curveball, curveball, whatever, they wanna go aggressive, fastball,” Nunez said. “I was sitting fastball the whole at-bat. They got the first two and then it hit me, you’re moving too fast, too much is going on for you right now.”
So he stepped out of the box and looked down to third base where Lars Davis banged two fists together, let’s go, swing away.
“Slowed the game down, saw the pitch, nice high and away and just drove it to where it was pitched,” he said. “First two you go right by me, I’m a freshman, everything is going crazy, they’re thinking, ‘let’s go again.’ I was sitting fastball.”
Good call, freshman.
The Dolphins wasted no time getting to Jordan Butler in the top of the first. Butler, a junior was making his first start of the season got two of the first three batters he faced out but the Dolphins got it going with two outs. Butler walked Cory Heffron and fell behind Christian Coipel, 2-1 before the junior first baseman deposited a fastball over the right-field wall for a 3-0 lead.
Butler would settle down, finishing the night throwing 2.1 innings and only gave up damage in the first inning. He was followed by freshman Tyler Nesbitt, who threw 1.2 scoreless with two strikeouts.
The Gators started chipping away at the Dolphin lead in the second and third innings. Florida scored one in the second on a Brady Smith sacrifice fly and one more in the third inning when Jud Fabian scored on a wild pitch. Fabian would tie the game in the fifth inning with a solo home run to left field, his second of the season.
Playing their second game in as many days the atmosphere began to feel like a conference game. Both teams threatened in the middle innings but each bullpen did its job to strand runners and keep the game knotted at three.
The Gators loaded the bases with one out in the seventh inning but Avery Love got Kendrick Calilao to ground out into a 4-6-3 inning-ending, double play. The sophomore let out a scream and the Dolphins celebrated as if they’d won the game. In the next frame, Ben Specht got into trouble but got a strikeout to strand a runner on third and reacted in the same fashion, screaming and pumping his fist
The Florida Gators will travel to Miami on Thursday to take on the No. 1 Hurricanes (4-0) in a matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Coral Gables. Florida will start Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich on Friday and Saturday but Kevin O’Sullivan hasn’t decided who will start on Sunday.
“We’ll get together and talk about it on the way down,” O’Sullivan said. “Really pleased with the way Nick (Pogue) threw the ball well too. Either way, regardless of who starts Sunday, everybody is going to have to pitch well if we want to be successful.”