Gators pitcher Jack Leftwich had retired his previous 12 batters when FAU second baseman Eric Rivera stepped into the batter’s box to lead off the fifth inning.
A light breeze intruded upon McKethan Stadium from center field. Leftwich, both figuratively and literally, had momentum behind him.
Friday is supposed to be Brady Singer’s day, Saturday is supposed to be for Jackson Kowar, a…
The freshman worked like clockwork. When he got his pitches back from catcher JJ Schwarz, he turned, gathered himself and delivered again, all in five seconds or fewer. Rivera called for time from the umpire, loitered just outside the batter’s box and kept one foot outside the chalk to try and delay the right-hander.
But it didn’t work.
Rivera chopped a ball softly back to Leftwich, who jogged toward first base and underhanded it to first baseman Keenan Bell for his 13th consecutive out.
It was that type of aggression from Leftwich that led to a 6-1 win for the Gators over FAU Tuesday night.
The mindset showed itself early. After allowing a leadoff single, Leftwich settled into his streamlined rhythm and started mowing down Owls batters.
The freshman flamethrower marked his first career start by consistently tossing his fastball in the 94-mph range while allowing just three balls to leave the infield. He finished the night having pitched 4.1 innings, striking out five and allowing one earned run on two hits and a walk.
“I really wasn’t trying to overthink it,” Leftwich said. “I just like to get the ball and go.”
Florida’s batters showed their eagerness early on. Left fielder Austin Langworthy and designated hitter Nelson Maldonado each swung at the second pitch they saw. Schwarz tempered the tendency with his at-bat by drawing a 3-2 walk, but still echoed the game plan when he attempted a steal just a couple of pitches later. Though he was easily gunned down at second, the failure didn’t put a dent in coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s game plan, as his team had five stolen base attempts on the the night.
“In the past, I think we've made some mistakes where we've kind of relied on our bats and you look up in the sixth inning and you're having a bad night offensively,” O’Sullivan said.
Langworthy answered the call for mid-week energy. In the third inning, the sophomore lined what looked to be a single over the second baseman and into right-center field. Instead of meandering to first, Langworthy turned on the jets and rounded the bag, heading full-speed into second ahead of the tag. He scored after a Maldonado line-drive single to left.
Overall, Florida’s offense wasn’t as explosive as it was in its opening series with Siena. The six runs it scored were the fewest in the Gators’ four games so far.
Still, O’Sullivan said he was pleased with the pace his offense exhibited.
“We ran the bases, put a couple of hit-and-runs on them,” he said. “I think forcing the action, putting a little more pressure on the defense may ignite our offense a little more in these midweek games.”
Florida comes back out to McKethan Stadium tonight at 6 to play Bethune-Cookman.
Florida’s Top Performers
SP Jack Leftwich: 4.1 IP, 1 ER, 5 Ks
RP Michael Byrne: 2 IP, 0 ER, 4 Ks
3B Jonathan India: 1-for-2, 3 Rs, 1 HR
OF Wil Dalton: 2-for-2, 3 RBIs, 2 BBs