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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
<p>UF outfielder Ryan Larson jogs to the dugout during Florida's 3-2 loss against Tennessee on April 8, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.</p>

UF outfielder Ryan Larson jogs to the dugout during Florida's 3-2 loss against Tennessee on April 8, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.

As Ryan Larson began to jog up the first-base line, Thomas Dillard took one look over his shoulder before turning back to face home plate.

Knowing he had no chance at making a catch, Dillard didn’t even acknowledge the ball that had just been crushed deep over his head.

Instead, the left fielder stood motionless on the grass of McKethan Stadium, dejected following another home run from Florida that added on to a weekend full of misfortune for Ole Miss.

Playing the final contest of a three-game series on Sunday afternoon, the No. 11 Gators (35-13, 16-8 SEC) defeated the Rebels 6-4 behind a balanced offensive attack that saw eight different batters combine for nine hits and five walks.

Jonathan India, appearing at third base for the first time in over a month due to a right elbow injury, got UF’s scoring started in the third inning with an opposite-field home run against Rebels pitcher David Parkinson.

Right fielder Nelson Maldonado then hit an RBI single one frame later to drive in center fielder Austin Langworthy before designated hitter Mark Kolozsvary hit a sacrifice fly with the bases load to further increase Florida’s lead.

In the bottom of the fifth, Larson continued the offensive onslaught with his blast to the left field bleachers.

Facing reliever Greer Holston, the senior continued his torrid stretch during conference play with a no-doubt homer crushed deep over the outfield wall of McKethan Stadium.

The bomb was his fifth of the season and increased his slugging percentage to .512, a number good for the best mark on UF’s roster.

"It was a fastball and I knew I hit it good,'' Larson said in a release. "With this wind [blowing out], kind of anything can happen.”

The Gators’ offensive outburst concluded later in the inning after catcher JJ Schwarz scored on a wild pitch and Maldonado was driven home off a double from first baseman Christian Hicks.

Florida’s pitching staff gave Ole Miss (29-20, 11-13 SEC) a glimmer of hope heading down the stretch after allowing a 6-1 lead to dwindle down to 6-4. However, closer Michael Byrne entered the game in the eighth inning and recorded the afternoon’s final five outs to complete the victory.

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The outing gave Byrne his 13th save in 2017, tying him for first for the most in a single season along with Shaun Anderson (2016), Josh Fogg (1998) and Danny Wheeler (1994).

"That's a pretty cool accomplishment I guess,'' Byrne said in a release. "I've never done it before. It's definitely different, but it's working so far. I'm getting the job done I guess, and we're getting wins. That's all I can ask for."

Sunday’s victory for the Gators completed a dominant sweep over Ole Miss and ran their winning streak up to nine games. Florida now leads the SEC East for the first time this season with a record of 16-8 in conference play.

"It was a really complete weekend,'' O'Sullivan said in a release. "We played good defense, we swung the bats well against the best pitching staff top to bottom, statistically, in the league. We put ourselves in a nice position."

 

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

UF outfielder Ryan Larson jogs to the dugout during Florida's 3-2 loss against Tennessee on April 8, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.

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