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Friday, December 03, 2021

Slumping UF hitters break out on Saturday, Gators blow out Commodores for second win of series

<p>Catcher JJ Schwarz notched his 214th career RBI Saturday against Vanderbilt. </p>

Catcher JJ Schwarz notched his 214th career RBI Saturday against Vanderbilt. 

The blazing Florida sun finally warmed up the bats of a couple slumping Gators on Saturday afternoon.

Catcher JJ Schwarz and first baseman Keenan Bell — two UF players who had struggled at the plate in recent games — led UF (24-5, 6-2 SEC) to its second win over No. 8 Vanderbilt (17-10, 5-3 SEC) this year at McKethan Stadium with a 10-2 victory.

Schwarz and Bell came into the contest hitting a combined 3-for-31 over the team’s past five games.

But that all changed against the Commodores.

Schwarz went 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored while Bell went 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored.

“Everyone is just coming together,” Schwarz said after the game. “Everyone is swinging good, everyone is keeping it simple and not trying to do too much. There’s not pressure on one single person because everyone is doing well.”

Schwarz hit a two-run single in the first to open up the scoring for Florida and later roped an RBI double down the right-field line in the seventh.

The two-base hit moved him into a tie for second all-time with 214 career RBIs, joining former Gators outfielder and first baseman Brad Wilkerson near the top of the list.

On the other side of the plate, the left-handed Bell recorded a base hit in his first plate appearance and scored that inning on a sac fly from designated hitter Nelson Maldonado. He also got on base thanks to a walk in the sixth.

But he did most of his damage on one swing in the seventh.

After a full-count walk put second baseman Blake Reese on first, the Gators first baseman sent a skyscraping three-run long ball over the right-center field wall into the back end of the Commodore’s bullpen, putting Florida on top 9-1. Bell’s home run was his fourth of the season and part of a seven-run inning that saw UF pull away from Vandy.

“It was a pitch I like to hit,” Bell said. “It was down and in. I kept my head on it, put a good swing on it and it went over.”

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Kowar worked over six solid innings, holding Vanderbilt to five hits and one run. Kowar also walked three batters and struck out six. Despite some early struggles in the game, Kowar was able to work off his fastball and eventually regained his changeup midway through his outing.

“I didn’t come out at the beginning with my best stuff,” Kowar said. “But I feel like I was able to kind of get better as the game went on.”

Florida will try to sweep the Commodores on Sunday. The Gators will send out sophomore Tyler Dyson for the start.

“In the SEC, it’s really competitive. The league is so often won by one game,” Bell said. “We take the series, but we can’t act like that going into Sunday. We wanna treat it like its 1-1. We’re trying to take a series because taking that sweep when you can get it is big.”

Follow Justin Ahlum on Twitter @justinn_case1 and contact him at jahlum@alligator.org.

Catcher JJ Schwarz notched his 214th career RBI Saturday against Vanderbilt. 

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