Three solo home runs power Gators past Jacksonville

It’s been 20 years since Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux told us that “Chicks dig the long ball” but the words rang true in Gainesville on Saturday night.

Florida used three solo home runs to blast its way past Jacksonville 3-2.

“That was a heck of a college baseball game,” Jacksonville manager Chris Hayes said. “Two really good teams that are playing really well. Exactly what we expected and hoped for Obviously we’d like to see the score flipped, but heck, that’s the defending national champions and you’ve got to do something special to get them on their home field.”

The game featured Brady Singer, who hadn’t missed a start in two-plus years at Florida before a hamstring injury kept him out of his last two outings. Singer, who will become a millionaire when the MLB Draft begins on Monday, was tested early. The first batter of the game dribbled a ball away from first baseman Brady Smith and Singer had to run to cover first. The next two outs made Singer field his position as well.

“I felt good. My body felt good,” he said. “I felt like I was running to first the whole time.”

The team quickly picked him up.

Jonathan India blasted a hanging curve ball over everything and into the parking lot deep behind the left field bleachers to re-take the team lead in home runs with 18. Wil Dalton wouldn’t stand for that. Dalton connected on the very next pitch when Spencer Stockton tried to sneak a fastball in on his hands. Dalton’s blast landed just over the SEC Champion decals in left center, tying India with 18 home runs and extending the Florida lead to 2-0.

“They’re National Champions for a reason and they’re the No. 1 seed for a reason,” Stockton said of Florida. “I probably made four mistakes and three of the were solo home runs. You live and you learn.”

Singer (11-1) was good on Saturday night but got into trouble in the fifth inning. He hit John Cassala to start the frame and gave up a one out double to Cory Guardascione to put two runners in scoring position. A single to center cut the lead in half and left the tying run 90-feet away. Hayes dialed up a safety squeeze and Singer, once again, was forced to field his position. The junior jumped off the mound, his momentum carrying him towards the line. Singer scooped the ball with his right hand, ready to flip it home but instinctively looked up and was able to tag Guardascione who was racing home.

“It surprised me when I saw him show bunt,” Singer said. “I knew it was a squeeze, the runner was taking off. I tried to get to it as quick as I can. I thought about flipping it but I decided to hold on to it.”

Jonah Girand, playing in place of JJ Schwarz who is out with a broken hand, hit his second home run in as many games with a solo shot into the bleachers to give Florida a 3-1 lead. The home run would prove to be the difference in the game after Singer gave up one more run in the seventh before finishing his outing.

Michael Byrne came into the game in the eighth inning and was rudely greeted with a leadoff triple by Ruben Someillan. Byrne was able to induce to popups and a ground out to strand Someillan at third and worked a perfect ninth inning to earn his 14th save of the season. In more than 100 years of baseball at Florida no pitcher had recorded 14 saves in a season until Michael Byrne’s 19 last season and 14 this year.

The win advances Florida in the winner’s bracket. Jacksonville and FAU will play an elimination game on Sunday at 1 p.m. with Florida meeting the winner of that tilt at 6:04. Florida would need to lose two games to be eliminated.

“It’s huge for us,” India said. “To gain momentum like that and all we have to do is win one now. One game and we’re in Super Regionals. That’s big for us.”

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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