To avoid a predicted rainstorm on Sunday, the Gators took some sage advice from Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks: “Let’s play two.”
While the doubleheader against Rhode Island started off fairly predictably for Florida (15-3), late-game drama still awaited fans at McKethan Stadium Saturday afternoon.
UF starter Tyler Dyson worked his fastball early and without mercy. He topped out at 96 mph for the most part, though the first pitch of the second inning registered at 100 mph.
Outside of his pitch speed, Dyson had a largely ho-hum day. He recorded six strikeouts through 6.1 innings pitched while allowing six hits. He was also charged with one unearned run in the seventh when catcher Cal Greenfield allowed a pitch to skip between his legs, setting up a runner on third. That baserunner came home on a sacrifice fly to right field.
At the plate, the Gators jumped out to an early lead and never gave it up. Left fielder Austin Langworthy ripped a double down the third-base line to score right fielder Wil Dalton from second and designated hitter Nelson Maldonado from first. In the second, a trio of doubles from center fielder Nick Horvath, first baseman JJ Schwarz and third baseman Jonathan India extended the lead to 6-0.
Freshman right-hander Hunter McMullen relieved Dyson and, after allowing the unearned run to be charged to the starter, allowed another unearned run in the eighth. McMullen gave up just one hit in his 2.2 innings of mop-up duty en route to a 9-2 Gators win.
Jackson Kowar got the start for Florida in the late afternoon game. He allowed a solo homer to right field, which flew just out of the grasp of Wil Dalton. Dalton’s glove ended up on the other side of the wall, just below the scoreboard. After the score though, Kowar cruised through his next four innings, retiring 14 consecutive Rams batters from the second through the sixth. He seemed to lose a little bit of control in the seventh, however. A leadoff single for URI on the first pitch of the inning and a walk after that forced him into a tight spot. After a strikeout, Kowar hit the next batter to load the bases.
But he still found a way out of the mess. A sacrifice fly from Rams left fielder Greg Cavaliere brought in the go-ahead run from third, but Kowar contained the damage to a single run in the frame.
The Gators struggled at the plate throughout the final game in the series. They recorded four hits through the first eight innings of play and found themselves down by a run with one left.
In the ninth, however, UF’s bats woke up from their doldrums. Third baseman Jonathan India lined a double to the deepest part of right-center field to lead off the inning, and shortstop Deacon Liput squared his second hit since being reinstated into the lineup back into center field to plate India for the tying score.
After URI relief pitcher Tyler Barss came in to try to send the game into extra innings, Liput decided to test the senior’s delivery speed by stealing second. The gambit paid off as Liput slid just ahead of the tag.
Following a walk to second baseman Blake Reese and a groundout from first baseman Keenan Bell, Barss then faced off against pinch hitter Jordan Butler with men on second and third.
Swinging on an 0-2 count, Butler dribbled a grounder toward the right side of the infield. Rams second baseman Josh Brodeur chased down the ball and slid to recover it, but first baseman Brett McManus had already started walking to the mound in disgust, unaware of the throw coming from Brodeur and allowing Butler to reach safely for the walk-off single and secure the 3-2 win.
Ballgame. Jordan Butler comes through with the base hit and Liput scores the winning run pic.twitter.com/Ao6QyPYfzS— Morgan McMullen (@MorganMcMuffin) March 10, 2018