Power Surge: Florida clinches SEC regular season title with 9-3 win

You wouldn’t have known it by the reaction after the game but the Florida Gators clinched at least a share of the SEC Championship, their fifth under Kevin O’Sullivan, with a 9-3 win over Georgia on Saturday afternoon.

It’s just the first box checked on the list of season goals but another championship for a team that has spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the country.

For the second day in a row the Gators would have to come back to beat the Bulldogs. Jackson Kowar gave up an infield single and a bloop into center field before a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position with no outs. Kowar was able to limit the damage to just one run before getting out of the jam.

After extending his hitting streak to eight games with a second inning single JJ Schwarz tied the game with a solo home run, the 49th of his career, in the fourth inning.

That was just the beginning of the fire works.

In the very next inning Nelson Maldonado followed a Deacon Liput walk with a line drive, two-run home run of his own, to give Florida a 3-1 lead. Maldonado also hit a home run last year on the day the Gators clinched the SEC.

In the sixth inning Blake Reese Schwarz opened it up with a single. Austin Langworthy walked and Brady Smith loaded the bases with a single. That brought Blake Reese up to the plate marred in a 1-11 skid with seven strikeouts. Reese had already struck out twice on the day and had an error to his credit.

“Sometimes the best mindset is just to not really think about anything,” Reese said after the game. “When you’re struggling it’s real easy to get caught up in ‘I’m doing this wrong or I should be doing that.’ At the end of the day you just gotta trust your abilities and let your body through the swing.”

He did just that launching an moonshot over the scoreboard for his first career grand slam.

Jonathan India joined the party, and tied Wil Dalton for the team lead with 16 home runs, with a two-run blast to left field three batters later.

Kowar continued chugging along, finding his slider in the third inning, Kowar threw up zero after zero by being able to pound the zone with all three of his pitches.

All nine of the Gators runs Saturday came via the long ball.

“It was a terrible breaking ball the first two innings. It really wasn’t even close to being competitive,” Kowar said. “Against a really good SEC team you’re going to need at least three pitches. Being able to get that working early in the third inning was really big and I was able to put up a bunch of zeroes in the middle innings.”

The win clinched the series for the Gators. They’re the only team in the league that has won every conference series in 2018 and the Gators have won 15 consecutive SEC series dating back to 2017.

Florida will go for a sweep at 1 pm on Sunday with freshman Jack Leftwich on the mound.

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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