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Friday, September 30, 2022
<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.

As the ball left Blake Reese’s bat in the bottom of the sixth inning, there were only two people moving on the play.

The first was Georgia right fielder Mitchell Webb, who slowly jogged toward the right field wall before coming to a stop and helplessly watching the ball sail overhead.

The second was Reese himself. He ran toward first base and paused, taking time to see his grand slam take shape and ensuring he didn’t overtake teammate Brady Smith on first.

Aside from them, no one moved. Everyone, from the pitcher to all three baserunners, turned and just stared as Reese’s shot bounced on Stadium Road and rolled toward the Keys Apartment Complex.

The grand slam may have put four runs on the board for the No. 1 Gators baseball team during it’s 9-3 win over No. 15 Georgia (34-16, 15-11 SEC), but the home runs were coming all day on Saturday at McKethan Stadium.

All nine of Florida’s runs came off four home runs throughout the game, helping the Gators (41-11, 20-6 SEC) easily clinch the series over the No. 16 Bulldogs and a share of the SEC regular season title.

“It’s not easy to do this with four games left,” Reese said. “And to win it last year and this year, I think it’s a testament to how well-rounded we are.”
In the top of the fourth, catcher JJ Schwarz got started with a solo shot over the left field wall to tie the score at 1-1.

Designated hitter Nelson Maldonado sent one the same way in the next inning, tacking on two more runs after shortstop Deacon Liput walked.

Then came the sixth inning.

Schwarz, who went 3-for-3 on Saturday, singled to left field, left fielder Austin Langworthy walked and Smith singled to left. That set up Reese’s grand slam on the next at-bat to give Florida a 7-1 lead.

After Horvath walked, third baseman Jonathan India sent one over the left field pole for UF’s final home run of the day.

“We have a very good ballclub,” Schwarz said. “We’re playing good at the right time.”

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Despite an early slipup, Saturday starter Jackson Kowar was dominant.

Kowar finished the day with nine strikeouts through seven innings of play, letting up six hits and one unearned run.

That run came in the top of the second inning. After Kowar started the frame with back-to-back singles, a passed ball to advance the runners to second and third and Webb grounded out to score shortstop Cam Sheppard.

From that inning, Kowar was nearly lights out, allowing just two more hits until he was pulled after the seventh inning for reliever Tommy Mace.

“I thought Jackson (Kowar) was outstanding today after the second inning,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “When he combines (his breaking ball) with his fastball/changeup combo, he’s pretty tough.”

Mace, though, did not find the same level of success.

He closed out the game, but allowed two runs off four hits in the eighth inning. A single to the left side from Bulldogs first baseman Patrick Sullivan brought two around to set the score at 9-3. Mace escaped the inning on consecutive ground outs.

The final frame went better.

With one out, Webb singled to left. Mace got the next batter to fly out, and the final batter to ground out to shortstop.

The Gators look to sweep the Bulldogs on Sunday at 1 p.m. Jack Leftwich takes the mound for Florida, while Kevin Smith Jr. tries to pick up the win.

“It takes a good group of guys,” Reese said. “And I think that’s what we got.”

You can follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake or contact him at jdreilinger@alligator.org.

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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