No matter how hard he tried, James McArthur simply couldn’t put Christian Hicks away.
The 6-foot-7 right-hander making his 10th start of the season for Ole Miss initially appeared destined for a dominant night on the mound, retiring the first nine batters he faced in Friday’s series opener against No. 11 Florida.
However, when McArthur found himself in a two-out, bases-loaded jam just one inning later, tremendous plate discipline from UF’s Hicks sent the Rebels’ ace to the showers much sooner than expected.
Hicks, one of the Gators’ hottest hitters in recent weeks, stepped to the plate and fouled off pitch after pitch, swinging at anything that was even remotely close to the strike zone. The St. Augustine, Florida, native quickly fell behind 0-2 in the count, but continued to survive the 15-pitch at bat long enough to draw four balls and bring in the game’s first run.
"I was just trying to battle up there,'' Hicks said in a release. "The bases were loaded, it was a close game… their pitcher was throwing well. I was just trying to have a good at-bat."
While hitting a barrage of foul balls – 10 to be exact – might not seem like much of a feat for Hicks, the plate appearance from UF’s third baseman ultimately served as the catalyst of an unending offensive explosion by the Gators (33-13, 14-8 SEC), one that eventually won them the contest by a score of 11-2.
After the two-out, bases-loaded walk from Hicks, senior left fielder Ryan Larson blew the game wide open with a grand slam to the left field bleachers of McKethan Stadium.
Sophomore designated hitter Jonathan India then continued the two-out rally with a single to center field before freshman first baseman Keenan Bell drove him in.
Sophomore second baseman Deacon Liput concluded the seven-run fourth inning with another base hit up the middle against McArthur, sending Bell home and chasing the Ole Miss pitcher off the mound for good.
The offensive outburst marked the sixth time UF has scored five or more runs in an inning over its last 14 games, leaving coach Kevin O’Sullivan more than pleased with his program.
“It was probably our most complete game we played all year,” he said in a release. “We had some really good approaches… The only negative about tonight is (that we) can’t take any of these 11 runs and move on.”
On the other side of the ball, Florida received another impressive outing from Friday-night starter Alex Faedo.
The 6-foot-5 junior tossed six scoreless innings and struck out nine batters, bringing his record up to 7-1 on the year.
Freshmen Tyler Dyson and Cole Maye then came out of the bullpen in mop up duty and pitched the night’s final three innings, securing the game for Florida and sending its win-streak up to seven.
UF continues the three game series on Saturday night against the Rebels, with Brady Singer and Ryan Rolison expected to start for their respective teams.
Contact Dylan Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon.
UF infielder Christian Hicks swings at a pitch during Florida's 3-2 loss against Tennessee on April 8, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.