There’s just something about that lucky number seven.
No. 1 Florida was down to Troy by a score of 7-1 before tying the ballgame in the seventh at seven apiece.
With the bases loaded, Cory Acton slapped a ball to Trojans second baseman Austin Garofalo, who cleanly fielded the grounder but sent a wide throw to first base. The errant throw got away and the juiced bases emptied faster than a Capri Sun pouch.
Florida took a 10-7 and won by the same score on Saturday.
The poor throw was the second of Garofalo’s two errors in the game.
And that was the difference in the game for the two teams: Errors. Troy had five, and the Gators played it clean with zero. Both squads exhibited elite hitting and spotty pitching, but Florida’s ability to keep a goose egg in the error column afforded it the ability to win this game.
Coach Kevin O’Sullivan said he was most proud of how his team refused to unravel and kept playing clean baseball.
“It’s really easy when you fall behind six runs to get sloppy,” he said. “We played really good defense and we stayed in the game mentally.”
Before the chaos ensued and turned Alfred A. McKethan Stadium into a madhouse, Florida had to mount a respectable comeback just to knot the game up at seven.
Trojans starter Orlando Ortiz left his team with a 7-4 lead going into the seventh. The junior right-hander went six innings, giving up nine hits, four runs (three earned), and two walks. He struck out five Gators.
Florida knocked in a run against Ortiz for four straight innings. His four runs given up came off a Jud Fabian blast in the third, a Cal Greenfield sac fly in the fourth, a Kendrick Calilao RBI single in the fifth and a passed ball which allowed Greenfield to sprint home. Greenfield had advanced to third on an error by Garofalo.
Florida’s first three runs in the seventh came to be from RBI pinch-hits by Jordan Butler and Brady Smith, followed by a bases-loaded walk drawn by third baseman Kirby McMullen.
All of this set the table for Acton, allowing the Gators to take their first lead of the game.
Florida closed it out by keeping Troy scoreless in the final two frames and took the series, advancing to an undefeated 10-0 to start the season. While the Gators kept the Trojans off the scoreboard late, they had lots of issues keeping them from crossing home plate early.
Early struggles on the mound
Jack Leftwich walked back to the home dugout while his teammates ran, got a few courtesy pats on the back as he walked down the steps and launched his righty glove at the wall with emotion.
The Gators pitcher had just given up a grand slam to Trojans left fielder Rigsby Mosley in the second inning, making it 4-0, Troy.
Leftwich, whose struggles were accented by Mosley’s grand slam, had trouble with his command all afternoon against the aggressive Trojans hitters.
For Troy, a single by catcher Caleb Bartolero, a hit-by-pitch for second baseman Austin Garofalo and a single by first baseman William Sullivan juiced the bags for Mosley to do his damage.
He took advantage of Leftwich’s poor day on the mound and sent an 0-1 pitch flying to opposite field for all four of his RBI in the game.
Hits, walks and hit batters remained a theme for Leftwich throughout. He allowed four more runners in the third alone.
With the bases loaded, Sullivan knocked a grounder off Leftwich’s leg, sending it into the stratosphere for an infield RBI single.
Leftwich was finished by the fourth, earning a final line of three-plus innings pitched, six hits, six runs, two walks and four K’s. He also hit two batters.
Florida’s bullpen pulled through for the embattled starter, giving up just one run after his exit.
The Gators’ sophomore pitching combo of David Luethje and Ben Specht picked up the win and save, respectively.
Florida will go for the sweep against Troy on Sunday at 4 p.m.
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