Wil Dalton was just getting started.
On the fourth pitch he saw from Stony Brook starter Greg Marino, the center fielder swung at an 87 mph fastball. The ball faded into nothingness just as quickly as it arrived. It bathed in the light of the full moon above the O’Connell Center, then plummeted back down to Earth in the left-field stands of McKethan Stadium.
Dalton wasn’t done, however.
With the Gators (10-1) behind 5-3 in the fifth, he stepped up to the plate and took Marino deep again, tying the game with a two-run shot over the head of center fielder Christian Montes.
Then, Dalton wrapped it up.
Up by two in eighth, the sophomore wanted insurance runs for his team. With a pair of runners in scoring position, he ripped a 2-2 off-speed pitch to nearly the same spot as his first, just past the National Championship banner on the left-field wall. He jogged a few paces toward first base, admiring his handiwork, then flung the bat to his right as he continued on his way.
Dalton’s performance on Friday powered Florida’s offense to a 12-5 win over Stony Brook (6-2) in the opening match of a three-game series at McKethan Stadium.
Dalton’s three-homer game is the first for a Gator since catcher JJ Schwarz had four against Stetson on April 7, 2014. He said he has never hit three homers in a game in his life.
“Third one was definitely icing on the cake,” Dalton said.
He said right fielder Jordan Butler, who had walked and scored on his second bomb, told Dalton beforehand that he would get on base for Dalton to drive him home. When Butler’s prophetic words came true, Dalton was nearly at a loss for words.
“When I did that, I just looked at him and was like, ‘Say that the rest of the night please,’” he said.
Dalton ended the night 4-for-5 at the plate with six RBIs. After going hitless in his series against Miami last weekend, he now has at least three hits in the three games since he moved to the leadoff spot.
“Anywhere I’m batting in the lineup, I’m trying to do what I did tonight,” Dalton said. “I don’t think you should — just because you’re batting leadoff — hit a ground ball just to get on. I’m trying to do damage. I’m trying to put runs on the board.”
Right-hander Brady Singer was hot-and-cold throughout his third start of the year. The junior tossed seven innings and ended his appearance by inducing a fly out to left field on his 100th pitch of the evening. He allowed five earned runs on a season-high nine hits while striking out five Seawolves batters.
Singer said he was expecting Stony Brook to come out swinging early to try to replicate the early success Miami had against him.
“I felt like I was mixing my pitches good in the first few innings, but they’re a good team,” Singer said.
On the whole, however, coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he was satisfied with his starter’s effort.
“Brady does what Brady always does,” O’Sullivan said. “Even though he might not always have his best stuff, he keeps you in the game.”
The night was not without its casualties, however. Shortstop Jonathan India pulled up limping after rounding second on a Keenan Bell pop out in the third inning. Though he returned to the field, he could be seen trying to stretch out his left hamstring between pitches. He didn’t return to the game after the fifth inning. O’Sullivan said the infielder would be day-to-day and that the injury wasn’t serious.
The Gators and Seawolves will play again Saturday afternoon at 4 in their second of three games.
Follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Center fielder Wil Dalton hit three home runs in Florida's Game 1 win over Stony Brook.