Nick Horvath turned his back to the pitcher and took off. It was a 3-2 game but Eric Gonzalez put a charge in an Andrew Baker fastball with a runner on base a looked like he had given FGCU a lead.
“I said ‘I got it’ but Langworthy said no it’s out,” Horvath recalled. “I just went for it.”
Horvath checked back as he approached the warning track, timed the ball perfectly and leapt at just the right time. The ball landed in his mitt just as his back crashed against the padded outfield wall to end the inning and preserve the lead. Baker was more excited than Horvath and waited for his centerfielder at the top of the dugout.
“I had to,” Baker said laughing. “I gotta give him a big hug. I told him I’ll buy him dinner or something like that. I gotta buy him something. He helped me out.”
Horvath kept his big inning going with a three-run home run in the bottom half of the sixth inning, a five run swing off of his glove and bat in the same inning. The play and hit helped Florida win 8-4 on Tuesday night, extending the Gators winning streak to seven.
Tommy Mace got the start for the Gators. The freshman gave up a run in the first inning but settled down, scattering seven hits over four inning, giving up two runs against a great hitting team in FGCU. The Eagles came into the game with the nation’s seven best on base percentage (.415), were ninth in scoring (8.1 runs per game), 10th in batting average (.313) and 13th in total runs scored (213).
“It’s a really good offensive club,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I think it was a good start for him against an older club. There were a couple meaningful points when he had second and third with nobody out and only gave up the one run and then when he got the double play with (Gage) Morey.”
The Gators scored a run in each of the first three innings. Deacon Liput lined out to start the game but Evan Lumbert walked the bases loaded and JJ Schwarz plated Maldonado with a sacrifice fly. Maldonado slid awkwardly into home and left the game, replaced by Horvath.
In the second inning Brady Smith (3-4) singled to center and scored all the way from first when deacon Liput doubled to right center. In the third it was A Jonathan India double (which extended his hitting streak to 16 games) and a JJ Schwarz single that extended the lead to 3-1.
The sixth inning has been the most productive for the Gators’ this season. They’ve score more runs (38) in the sixth than any other inning this season, including the five on Tuesday.
The Eagles made things interesting in the eighth when Hunter McMullen came in to pitch. The freshman gave up a single and a two run home run to make the score 8-4. Jay Hayes followed the home run with a double before O’Sullivan brought in Michael Byrne. It wasn’t a save situation but Byrne closed the book on the game getting five outs in just 13 pitches.
The Gators will take its seven game winning streak and five game SEC winning streak on the road to Knoxville for a three game set with Tennessee.