Heading into the final two innings against Eastern Michigan, the Florida baseball team knew it needed something to happen to pull out the win.
In the top of the eighth, the Gators gave up five runs on a combination of poor defense and timely Eagles hitting.
Slowly but surely, the Gators began to rally.
Deacon Liput ripped a two-RBI triple in the bottom of the eighth to bring Florida within one.
Ryan Larson and Jonathan India hit back-to-back one-out singles in the bottom of the ninth to set up pinch-hitter Nelson Maldonado’s game-tying RBI single one at-bat later.
And then, with Buddy Reed facing a 1-2 count, Eastern Michigan’s Jeremy Stidham was called for catcher’s interference, allowing India to cross home plate.
Playing in Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida, the No. 1 Gators defeated Eastern Michigan 8-7 on Wednesday to stay undefeated and sweep the two-game midweek series. UF won the first game 12-3 in Gainesville on Tuesday.
"It was a good learning experience for us in a lot of different ways," UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. "We came back down three with six outs to go. We had some freshmen have some really big at-bats at the end of the game."
After opening the game in an offensive slump, the Gators (5-0) found a breath of life in the fifth inning.
Trailing Eastern Michigan 2-1 following a defensive miscue from India in the top half of the frame, Florida scored three runs on three hits capped by a two-RBI single by sophomore Mike Rivera to take the 4-2 advantage. Rivera finished the game 2-for-4 while also drawing a walk.
But as quickly as Florida’s offense showed up, it disappeared in the blink of an eye.
In the sixth inning, Eastern Michigan pitcher Augie Gallardo struck out the side. In the seventh, UF had back-to-back flyouts before the Eagles (3-3) forced Ryan Larson to strand a pair of baserunners, setting the stage for Eastern Michigan’s five-run outburst.
"We’ve got to kind of learn that once we take a lead in the middle innings, we can’t give away at-bats and innings," O’Sullivan said.
"We’ve got to continue to push forward."
Shaun Anderson earned the win after tossing the final inning and holding Eastern Michigan at bay, giving up just one hit.
Redshirt sophomore Scott Moss, who started Wednesday’s game after sitting out his first two seasons following Tommy Johns surgery, had an erratic outing.
In three innings, the 6-foot-5 lefty gave up just one hit and one earned run while striking out six batters, but also walked two and hit four others.
The Gators continue their road stretch by heading to Coral Gables for a three-game series with No. 6 Miami that starts Friday night.
Florida won four of five games against the Hurricanes last season, taking two of three in the regular-season series and both contests at the College World Series.
A radio broadcast contributed to this report.