Nick Horvath’s arm has more range than Madonna’s singing voice.
As the shadows loomed right-to-left across McKethan Stadium in the top of the third inning, Stony Brook shortstop Nick Grande stood in the batter’s box to square off against Florida starting pitcher Jackson Kowar. With a runner on second, Kowar hurled an 0-1 fastball that Grande lined right back up the middle and into center field.
Horvath charged. He gathered, took a hop toward the infield and unleashed a rocket to home plate that caused him to topple over and tumble on the grass.
In one fluid motion, catcher JJ Schwarz took two steps up the third-base line, gloved the throw and laid down a tag on the sliding Seawolves runner.
The play at the plate quashed any hope of a Stony Brook runner reaching home in what became an 8-0 shutout by the Gators.
Coach Kevin O’Sullivan expressed his confidence in Horvath’s throwing ability from deep in the outfield.
“He’s probably the only guy on our team that can probably do that,” O’Sullivan said.
Horvath showed off his impressive arm strength once again in the top of the seventh. With a runner on first, Horvath misjudged a line drive hit by left fielder Dylan Resk. He initially took a couple of steps inward, then hastily retreated toward the wall only to have the ball zip just over his outstretched glove. He snatched the ball as it bounced off the wall and rifled it back into the infield before the runner could advance past third.
“Horvath had an unbelievable throw,” Kowar said, “but that’s kind of the usual with him.”
With strong defense behind him, Kowar finished his day after 6.1 innings pitched. He allowed four hits and struck out five on 96 total pitches.
Kowar’s stat line may be a little misleading, as the right-hander struggled early with command of his fastball. He allowed a man to reach base through his first three innings before settling into a groove.
“I thought Jackson (Kowar) battled,” O’Sullivan said. “He gave us a chance to win.”
The Gators (11-1) chipped away at Seawolves pitching once again before establishing a dominance in the batter’s box late in the game. After catcher JJ Schwarz led off the fourth with a walk, he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Back-to-back singles from shortstop Blake Reese and left fielder Austin Langworthy finally brought the senior captain home for the game’s first run.
Reese wasn’t done producing at the plate. In the bottom of the seventh, after designated hitter Nelson Maldonado launched a homer over the bleachers in left field, Reese cleared the seats as well, leaving a pair of fans staring over the back of the stands to admire his handiwork.
The switch-hitter from Tallahassee is now 8-for-14 in the last three games with seven runs scored. His solo blast in the seventh against Stony Brook was the first home run of his collegiate career.
“I don’t have an elaborate plan or anything up there,” Reese said. “Just trying to get out of my own way and just kind of let my body work through the swing.”
After Kowar departed the mound, freshman Jordan Butler came on in relief. The southpaw retired five out of the next six batters before getting into a jam himself in the ninth. Fellow freshman Hunter McMullen recorded the final two outs to preserve Florida’s second shutout of the season.
The Gators will look to sweep the series Sunday at 1 p.m.
“It was a good overall day,” O’Sullivan said. “Look forward to getting out here (Sunday).”