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Friday, September 30, 2022

Florida's pitchers unable to find strike zone in loss to USF

<p>Nick Horvath delivers a pitch to home plate during Florida's 3-2 loss to Tennessee on April 8, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.</p>

Nick Horvath delivers a pitch to home plate during Florida's 3-2 loss to Tennessee on April 8, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.

Following a two-week span where absolutely nothing could go wrong for Kevin O’Sullivan and his players, the Florida baseball team came crashing back down to reality on Tuesday night.

The No. 7 Gators – playing in their final midweek game of the regular season – struggled mightily on the mound from start to finish against the No. 23 South Florida Bulls, allowing 13 hits, three home runs and a season-high 17 walked batters.

UF was unable to command the strike zone for much of the evening, throwing 106 balls on 215 total pitches. That lack of control for Florida (35-14, 16-8 SEC) ultimately resulted in a humbling 15-10 defeat, snapped its winning streak at nine games.

Normally used as a reliever, freshman Garrett Milchin got the starting nod on Tuesday night and allowed two earned runs on two innings pitched at McKethan Stadium.

From there Nate Brown, Frank Rubio, Nick Horvath, Tyler Dyson, Kirby McMullen and Austin Bodrato were each summoned out of the bullpen to face USF’s lineup.

Brown only found the strike zone six times and didn’t record an out during his 19-pitch appearance, while Bodrato gave up four walks and threw 20 balls in his 30-pitch outing.

Of the six relievers to take the mound for the Gators on Tuesday, McMullen was the only one to keep South Florida (38-10) off the scoreboard. The other five allowed at least two earned runs each, leading O’Sullivan to get on his pitchers about their control issues after the contest.

“We try to help them and get the point across that they don’t have to do it on their own,” UF’s head coach said. “We play such good defense that there’s really no need to be walking that many guys... Tonight was just one of those nights where it got to a point and it just got out of hand.”

 

Offensively for UF, third baseman Jonathan India and catcher JJ Schwarz both added to their home run totals this season with solo blasts in the second and fourth inning, respectively.

The Gators then made things interesting down the stretch, scoring seven runs in the game’s final two frames behind a three-RBI performance from Blake Reese.

Reese, starting at second base in place of Deacon Liput, drove in both India and center fielder Andrew Baker on a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth.

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In the following frame, the Tallahassee, Florida, native walked with the bases loaded to score first baseman Christian Hicks.

While Florida’s comeback attempt ultimately fell short, Reese said he was still encouraged by the offense continuing to fight down the final stretch of the game.

“It’s a testament to the way we’ve been swinging lately,” he said. “It gives you at least a little bit of momentum going (forward).”

The Gators will look to rebound from their loss to USF this weekend when they travel to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for a three-game set against the Crimson Tide.

Alex Faedo will pitch the series-opener on Friday starting at 7 p.m., while Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar will round out the roadtrip on Saturday and Sunday.

 

Contact Dylan Dixon at ddixon@alligator.org or follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon.

Nick Horvath delivers a pitch to home plate during Florida's 3-2 loss to Tennessee on April 8, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.

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