Joe Drpich looks more like an offensive lineman than a baseball player.
He’s 6-foot-3 and weighs 289 pounds, according to Siena’s website, and looks it. And like many baseball players of similar girth, his tree-trunk legs and torso the width of a single-lane street provide pop. He showed that on Saturday.
After the ceremonial first pitch from 2017 College World Series MVP Alex Faedo, after unveil…
Drpich took the first pitch he saw from Florida starter Jackson Kowar up and over the left field fence, depositing it just beyond the wall. The crowd at McKethan Stadium audibly “awwwww”d as Drpich’s shot gave his team an early two-run lead. Not a great moment for Kowar, not a great moment for the Gators, but it was as great as things got for Siena.
Kowar settled down and dominated from there while his team’s offense left him little to worry about in Florida’s 10-2 win over the Saints (0-2) on Saturday afternoon. The win gave the Gators (2-0) the series victory.
“That was definitely a grind through the first inning,” Kowar said after allowing Siena to double its hit total from Friday night in the inning alone. “I definitely settled in toward the end there.”
Kowar couldn’t equal the success of his roommate and Friday night’s starter, Brady Singer, who didn’t allow an earned run in seven innings in his 2018 debut. Kowar did, however, total 10 strikeouts to Singer’s eight and retired the final 14 hitters he faced, although he didn’t notice.
“You realize you’re throwing well,” he said, “but I don’t keep track.”
Coach Kevin O’Sullivan was keeping track, and he was impressed. He said Kowar’s later innings were some of his best at Florida, and he, Kowar and catcher JJ Schwarz all credited Kowar’s improved tempo after the first frame.
“I’m really, really pleased with how he threw the ball,” O’Sullivan said.
Freshman pitcher Jack Leftwich made his college debut in the eighth inning. Despite allowing a pair of quick hits, he settled in and tossed a scoreless frame.
Closer Michael Byrne sealed the victory with a scoreless ninth.
The offense was led by no one in particular, as five Florida players recorded RBIs. If anyone was most impressive among them, though, it was Schwarz.
Schwarz mauled a baseball in the second inning for a two-run homer — his first of the year — along with an additional RBI and pair of hits.
“I felt good up there,” he said, “and got a pitch I could drive.”
Schwarz is hitting .625 on the year, though he probably shouldn’t have had the opportunity for that home run.
Florida’s offense was quick to help out Kowar after his rough first inning by scoring one run in the bottom half. However, the Gators didn’t take the lead until the second inning thanks to a Siena error.
On what should have been an inning-ending fly out, Saints left fielder Dan Lowndes let the ball bounce off his glove and onto the grass. The Gators, instead of being left scoreless, got two runs on the miscue.
Schwarz came up next and made Siena pay even more with his homer.
Three Gators — Schwarz, first baseman Keenan Bell and right fielder Wil Dalton — homered in the win, while Schwarz, second baseman Blake Reese and center fielder Nick Horvath all picked up three hits apiece. Entering Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale, five UF players are hitting .375 or greater.