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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Gators baseball benefits from sloppy play by Hurricanes, stays undefeated

<p>Second baseman Blake Reese powered a grand slam to right field in UF's 9-3 home win over the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday.</p>

Second baseman Blake Reese powered a grand slam to right field in UF's 9-3 home win over the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday.

The beginning of game two between the Gators and Hurricanes was less baseball and more slapstick comedy.

Hurricanes starter Greg Veliz was in line to pitch a normal inning. With a man on first and one out, a double-play ball could’ve easily ended the top half of the frame.

After a wild pitch moved designated hitter Nelson Maldonado to second, catcher JJ Schwarz drew a walk and right fielder Wil Dalton reached safely on a throwing error to load the bases.

A subsequent walk and hit batsman allowed the first two runs — both unearned — to score in Florida’s 8-2 win against the No. 24 Hurricanes (2-4) at Alex Rodriguez Park on Saturday night.

UF took advantage of a number of Miami mishaps during their primetime matchup. The Gators walked six times and had two batters (Austin Langworthy and Blake Reese) get hit by pitches.

Pitching was crucial for the Gators (7-0) on Saturday night. The staff held UM to only five base hits, and the Hurricanes left seven runners on base.

"We did just enough offensively,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We made some mistakes. We missed some signs.”

In three consecutive innings, Kowar found himself on the wrong end of Miami rallies. In the second, he allowed a walk and a single to put two on with one out, but he got the next two batters to pop out to shortstop Jonathan India.
The third started roughly similar: two men on, one man out. This time, however, India couldn’t get to the ball. A single from right fielder Romy Gonzales scooted through the left side of the Gator infield to bring home UM’s first run of the evening.

Kowar settled down and found composure. He forced former Gators left fielder Danny Reyes into a fielder’s choice and Alex Toral into a flyout to end the inning.

After Kowar exited the game, Florida’s bullpen finished the job. Freshman Jack Leftwich came on in relief in the seventh, retiring all nine batters and striking out six. He also picked up his first career save in the process.

At one point, Leftwich’s fastball hit 97 mph. The right-hander maintained a mid-90s rate on his fastball throughout his three innings of work.

“It was kind of a repeat performance that we saw last night from Tommy Mace,” O’Sullivan said. “The poise that those two have shown is amazing.”

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Florida saw its key players continue their early season success at the plate. Maldonado, who was batting an even .500 coming into the game, swatted two early singles and continued to provide a spark for the lineup. He finished the game 2-for-5 and scored a run.

Second baseman Blake Reese continued his hot start at the plate as well. Reese went 2-for-4 with three runs batted in, including an RBI triple in sixth.

Maldonado (.481) and Reese (.423) join JJ Schwarz (.444) in having hit .400 or better in the first seven games.

The Gators will play for their second sweep of the season tomorrow, and Miami will look to save the series and avoid their fifth straight loss.

Follow Justin Ahlum on Twitter @justinn_case1 and contact him at

Second baseman Blake Reese powered a grand slam to right field in UF's 9-3 home win over the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday.

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