Desperately in need of a win to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, Florida Atlantic looked to have Florida in an ideal spot.
The Gators had mustered just three hits through four scoreless innings while the Owls had taken a 1-0 lead in the third on an RBI single from center fielder Nathan Pittman.
Then, it all fell apart.
Florida (27-23) benefitted from several FAU (28-20) mistakes as it used a six-run fifth inning to beat the Owls on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium, 7-1.
“It looked like early on it was going to be a battle,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “And it was that. We were just fortunate enough we got to the bullpen there and were able to put some good swings together.”
After third baseman Josh Tobias was hit by a pitch to begin the bottom of the fifth, Harrison Bader hit a ground ball that shortstop Mitch Morales threw into left field on his intended throw to second. Tobias advanced to third on the throwing error.
Shortstop Cody Dent tied the game with a sacrifice bunt down the first-base line that scored Tobias.
Center fielder Richie Martin then singled off of Morales’ glove and advanced to second when no one was covering the bag.
“I honestly didn’t see it,” Martin said of the open bag. “I saw my teammates waving me so I ran and I took a chance.”
Left-hander Bo Logan then came in for starter Jake Meiers and gave up a double to Casey Turgeon that scored Martin and Bader to put the Gators up 3-1.
“He just left the ball over the plate,” Turgeon said. “I barreled it, and I guess it was a big swing in the game. Just glad we put some runs together that inning.”
The following at-bat, FAU first baseman Mark Nelson overran a Taylor Gushue pop fly into foul territory. Gushue recovered to single and advance Turgeon to third. Turgeon would score on a balk from Logan. Gushue then got to third on a Logan wild pitch and proceeded to score on a Zack Powers single to extend the lead to 5-1.
Reliever Gregg Bennis came in for Logan and hit both Vickash Ramjit and Tobias to load the bases, and then walked in Florida’s sixth run when he threw ball four behind Bader.
The Owls were unable to make up for their fielding mistakes at the plate. Pittman’s single was the only hit FAU would muster as Florida allowed only one hit for the first time this season.
The Gators’ got a career-high six innings from sophomore starter Bobby Poyner, who retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced after allowed the RBI single.
“I was just trying to throw the ball over the plate and let the defense play,” Poyner said. “We made really good catches in the outfield and played really good defense in the infield. Didn’t make any errors.”
The bullpen backed Poyner up superbly as freshman Danny Young and sophomores Ryan Harris and Johnny Magliozzi combined for three perfect innings.
In Saturday’s 18-6 loss to LSU, the UF bullpen gave up 15 runs in six innings. O’Sullivan was happy to see his relievers rebound.
“Danny Young got out there and threw a clean inning,” O’Sullivan said. “Ryan Harris has been working really, really hard on his slider this week. I thought it looked as good as it had all year long, and Mags threw some good changeups to some left-handed hitters…I was really pleased with their effort. It was clean. It was crisp. They located.”
Contact Josh Jurnovoy at email@example.com
Freshman outfielder Harrison Bader slides into home during Florida's 14-5 win against South Carolina on Saturday. Bader scored a run in the Gators' 7-1 win against the Owls on Tuesday.