Daniel Gibson stood behind his teammates as they leaned over the dugout railing watching a tie game slip away.
Gibson allowed a single to the only batter he faced. Runners stood at first and second in the ninth as Justin Shafer jogged from right field to clean up the mess.
Gibson clapped his hands.
"Come on ‘J," he yelled.
The Gators wanted this game. Florida needed it to avoid getting swept at home for the first time in three years.
Shafer struck out Brooks Beisner and induced a ground ball to shortstop Richie Martin off the bat of Michael Suchy.
Florida’s bullpen had allowed two runs in six innings after Suchy’s groundout. A small feat for a winning baseball team, but for the struggling Gators, it meant one step closer to victory.
Coach Kevin O’Sullivan went to his closer Johnny Magliozzi in the fourth inning on Sunday. Florida needed a better performance from its middle relief after giving up five runs in the sixth and seventh innings in Saturday’s 8-3 loss.
"We needed to win [on Sunday]," O’Sullivan said. "That was the mindset going in. We’re trying to win the ball game."
O’Sullivan tabbed Magliozzi early, because the sophomore attacks the strike zone.
Magliozzi kept the Eagles scoreless until his fourth inning of work. He got two quick outs on deep fly balls to left and right field in the seventh. Beisner then followed a Dwyer single with a game-tying two-run home run off the top of a palm tree in right.
Shafer suffered a similar fate in his third inning.
Dwyer hit a deflating go-ahead three-run shot in the eleventh over the right field scoreboard.
Two swings turned potential redemption into another crushing loss in the series finale.
The bullpen has blown a lead in each of Florida’s four straight losses. O’Sullivan called for better execution after another subpar performance on Saturday.
"You look at the box score. Maybe it’s better, but no," O’Sullivan said. "We got to throw the ball better. The ball is up in the zone. There were a lot of hard outs."
As kids finished running around the wet base paths after Sunday’s soggy game, the Gators waited to pull the tarp onto the infield. Florida does it after every game.
For once, it seemed like a fitting end to a series it would like to forget.
Extra innings create uncertainty:
Nine different relievers made appearances during the weekend. O’Sullivan waited until Monday night to announce his decision to start Keenan Kish tonight.
Kish will throw the first pitch against North Florida (5-2) tonight at 7 at McKethan Stadium. Playing their second game with extra innings in a week didn’t make the decision any easier for the Gators (3-5).
Kish, a right-hander, was one of two UF hurlers not to throw against Florida Gulf Coast. Kish made his first career start on Tuesday against UCF in Orlando. He tossed two scoreless innings.
Contact Adam Pincus at email@example.com.