Leftwich leads Gators to opening series win over Marshall

If the Florida Gators want to get back to Omaha they’re going to need their junior pitchers to show up on Friday and Saturday.

After a rough, injury-plagued sophomore season, Jack Leftwich showed up on Saturday night leading the Florida Gators to a 10-0 win to clinch the series over Marshall.

Leftwich surrendered two hits in the first inning but was able to hold the Herd off the scoreboard. After the second hit he allowed, Leftwich retired seven consecutive batters.

For three innings Brady Choban matched Leftwich pitch for pitch. The sophomore threw three innings before surrendering a hit.

“We took what we were given at the plate today,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Their starter was really good early on. It’s like an SEC-type guy. Threw a ton of strikes. He was 90-94, with a big angle to his fastball, throwing both sides of the plate, really tight slider.

But Florida noticed that Choban wasn’t as accurate from the stretch as he was in the windup and when the Gators started getting guys on base in the fourth inning the floodgates opened.

The story of the game was throwing strikes. Leftwich did it, walking no batters, while Marshall’s pitching staff combined to walk 13 batters.

Kirby McMullen — who has reached base safely in 7-of-8 plate appearances this season — and Cory Acton both walked to start the fourth inning. Kendrick Calilao drove both runners home with a double down the third baseline. Three more walks pushed in the third run of the inning.

On the other side, Leftwich settled in. His 2018 campaign was first derailed by a nasty blister on his right middle and finger that was so bad he had to be pulled out of multiple games due to bleeding. Then he sprained his ankle later in the year.

“I was really anxious to get out here,” Leftwich said. “Watching Friday’s game and having to wait until today, but it was good. I felt comfortable and relaxed.”

Florida continued its patient approach at the plate and used timely hits to continue building. They score two runs in the fifth and five more in the seventh while using four pitchers to complete the shutout.

“Jack was outstanding on the mound – no walks, eight strikeouts – and they were really aggressive early in the count. That’s an older club, for the most part,” O’Sullivan said. “Really pleased David (Luethje) came in and threw a clean inning in the seventh. Everybody that stuck around had a chance to see those two special arms (Hunter Barco, Brandon Sproat) at the end that we’re awfully excited about. Ideally, that’s what you’d like to do early in the season, get those young pitchers into game situations that are non-pressure. I thought they both handled it as well as they could have.”

The Gators will look to sweep Marshall at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday with sophomore Nick Pogue on the mound. The Gators have swept their last five opening weekend opponents.

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