Nelson Maldonado slid into third with a triple, but he wasn’t satisfied.
After the freshman ripped a game-tying triple down the right-field line in the second inning, he popped up off the bag and raced home on a bad throw to third that scooted away from third baseman Austin Langham.
“I got to third and I saw the ball behind me so I took off to home,” Maldonado said. “I was tired. I knew I was running kinda slow but I made it.”
Behind Maldonado’s efforts and Florida's bullpen, No. 1 UF (22-1) defeated FAU 2-1 Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium.
UF has won 16 in a row and tied a school record for most consecutive home wins with 24.
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said the players deserve all the credit for the streak.
“We coach them up in fall and early spring and give them the scouting report before the game and try to get them in the right frame of mind, but they gotta go out and play,” he said.
It didn’t take long for the Owls (15-4) to ruffle UF starting pitcher Jackson Kowar’s feathers.
On Kowar’s second pitch of the first inning, Owls' second baseman Stephen Kerr blasted a solo home run to left to seize a 1-0 lead.
But in the second inning, Florida’s freshmen fired back to score a pair of runs.
Deacon Liput ripped a one-out double to left field and then scored on the triple from Maldonado, who also scored.
Kowar settled down after his two-hit first inning.
The Charlotte, North Carolina, native worked scoreless second, third and fourth innings, striking out five batters over that span.
But in the fifth, he ran into trouble.
O’Sullivan pulled Kowar after a walk and a hit-by-pitch and replaced him with junior Frank Rubio. Rubio then prevented any damage by inducing an inning ending double play on his second pitch to Kerr.
Rubio, who earned his first win of the season, said the double play was huge in terms of momentum.
“I knew it was Jackson’s runs out there,” Rubio said. “I think I take even more pride in making sure I don’t cash someone else’s runs in.”
An inning later, O’Sullivan’s situational tactics worked again.
Scott Moss relieved Rubio on the mound with two outs and two runners on and struck out Sean Labsan looking to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Gators had a chance to bust open the game.
Maldonado came to the plate after Florida loaded the bases on a Guthrie single, an Alonso hit-by-pitch and a Liput walk. But the Tampa native chopped a groundout to the pitcher to end the threat.
In the seventh inning, O’Sullivan called on junior Dane Dunning to help hold the 2-1 lead.
Dunning inherited a runner but struck out a pair to close out the inning. The Fleming Island native tossed a scoreless eighth inning before junior Kirby Snead and freshman Brady Singer combined to close the door in the ninth inning.
O’Sullivan said it was tough in a 2-1 game, but he got all of the bullpen arms in the game that he wanted to.
“The plan worked,” he said, “but often times it can go awry in a hurry.”
With an away series versus Kentucky looming this weekend, O’Sullivan said it was important to get innings out of some relievers who hadn't seen action in a while.
“We won a ballgame where everybody got the work that they needed,” he said. “So we feel at least a little bit better going into the weekend.”
Contact Patrick Pinak at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Pinakk12.