It can be conveyed on a scorecard (FC5U, E5), but it can’t be explained or appreciated there. In the annals of Gators baseball individual plays, perhaps the strangest of them all — FC5U, E5 — now belongs to Wil Dalton.
In the bottom of the fifth, Florida third baseman Brady Smith doubled down the third-base line for UF’s third hit of the game. Stony Brook starting pitcher Brian Herrmann then beaned center fielder Nick Horvath to set up Dalton’s at-bat.
Nick Horvath’s arm has more range than Madonna’s singing voice.
The Gators’ right fielder ripped a chopper over to third baseman Bobby Honeyman. Honeyman fielded the ball awkwardly, planting his right hand on the ground behind him as he fell to his side. He recovered, stepped on third for the force out and, realizing Horvath had already ran to second, made a hasty throw over to first.
But Honeyman’s throw came up short of the first baseman and dribbled into foul territory. Horvath rounded the corner and trotted across home plate without a throw as Dalton sped into third. Third-base coach Craig Bell signaled Dalton to hold up as he tried to get eyes on the ball. Then, giddiness.
Bell hopped fervently, imploring Dalton to run 90 feet farther.
Dalton did. In doing so, he completed the improbable fielder’s choice inside-the-park homer to give No. 1 Florida the eventual game-winning runs in a 3-1 win over the Seawolves (6-4) Sunday afternoon at McKethan Stadium.
“The heads-up, aggressive base running by Wil Dalton was obviously big for us,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
Almost equally anomalous was starting pitcher Tyler Dyson.
After giving up a leadoff single on his second pitch of the game, he slipped on the rubber as he went through his windup, nearly tumbling over onto his back for a balk to allow Stony Brook right fielder Michael Wilson to advance to second.
“Early on, the mound’s a little slick,” Dyson said. “You don’t really have your footing. It was just a slippage.”
After a strikeout to get the next batter, Dyson let up a single to center field. Horvath, who threw out a Seawolves baserunner at the plate on Saturday, nearly had another outfield assist, but his throw in to catcher JJ Schwarz was a fraction of a second late.
After the first inning, however, Dyson cruised. Through his next six innings, the sophomore right-hander allowed just two hits and didn’t issue any walks. His seven innings pitched set a new career high.
“I felt good out there after the first inning,” Dyson said. “Felt sharp with all my pitches as the game went on.”
The Gators (12-1) struggled from the plate early as well. Their first hit didn’t come until the fourth inning. After Schwarz drew a walk in a 12-pitch at-bat, first baseman Keenan Bell lifted a soft liner to center field that advanced Schwarz to third. Left fielder Austin Langworthy blooped an RBI single into left center to bring Schwarz home.
After Dyson concluded his time on the mound, closer Michael Byrne entered in the eighth to attempt a six-out save. He got out of a jam after allowing men to reach second and third with two outs by striking out Stony Brook first baseman Michael Russell on a 1-2 slider outside the strike zone. He finished off the game on a similar 1-2 pitch to designated hitter Michael Palazzolo.
Florida has a home-and-home series with UCF starting on Tuesday in Orlando, then plays the next four at home before heading off to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks.
O’Sullivan said he believes he can fully trust Dyson heading into the SEC schedule on March 16.
“If he throws the way he’s capable, we should have a lot of success on Sundays,” O’Sullivan said. “I’ve said that all along."