Danny Reyes didn’t disappoint in the biggest start of his young career.
With Florida facing elimination from the Southeastern Conference tournament, the freshman was given the start against Alabama to shake up the lineup and boost UF’s offense. In the eighth, he crept into the box with a man on second in a 4-4 game.
Reyes smoked the eventual game-winning double, as the fourth-seeded Gators (45-12) defeated the ninth-seeded Crimson Tide 5-4 Thursday in Hoover, Alabama, knocking Alabama out of the tournament.
UF will play tomorrow night against the loser of tonight’s Mississippi State-Louisiana State matchup.
Reyes, who had just two hits in 19 career at-bats prior, finished 2 for 4 with two doubles in his third career start. UF outfielder Buddy Reed was happy for Reyes.
“Danny (Reyes) put a great swing on it,” Reed said. “That’s all you can ask for in that situation.”
Florida took advantage of UA starting pitcher Jake Walters control issues in the first.
Walters issued three walks in the inning, including one to Reed. UF then jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Reed scored on freshman Jonathan India’s groundout.
In the second, Alabama lit up UF starting pitcher Brady Singer.
Singer, who left a good chunk of his fastballs over the middle of the plate early, surrendered three runs on four hits, including Daniel Cucjen’s two-run double and Hunter Webb’s RBI double.
Florida didn’t wait long to seize the lead again.
A pair of walks put two runners aboard before sophomore JJ Schwarz singled through the left side to score Reed from second. India then followed suit with an RBI single through the 5-6 hole.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Deacon Liput hit into a fielder’s choice off UA relief pitcher Matt Foster, capping the three-run inning and giving Florida a 4-3 advantage.
Alabama (32-26) couldn’t figure out Singer after the second inning.
Singer tossed a career-high six innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits. The Leesburg native made his first career start in place of Logan Shore, who was scratched from his start because of a stomach bug.
UF catcher Mike Rivera, who caught all 14 innings in the previous game, liked what he saw out of Singer from the dugout.
“He pitched unbelievably,” he said. “He kept us in the game.”
When Singer ran into seventh-inning trouble by walking a batter and hitting another, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan turned to four different pitchers.
The second reliever, Kirby Snead, forfeited the lead. Connor Short singled home a run with two outs to tie the game at 4-4.
But in the eighth, Reyes’ two-bagger became the eventual dagger.
Nick Horvath, who earned the win to improve to 2-1, held the Crimson Tide scoreless in the eighth before closer Shaun Anderson finished them off in the ninth.
A television broadcast contributed to this report.
Contact Patrick Pinak at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @pinakk12.
Brady Singer pitches during Florida's 8-4 win against Florida Gulf Coast on Feb. 20, 2016, at McKethan Stadium.