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Friday, December 04, 2020
<p>Ben Specht</p>

Ben Specht

The Gators’ lack of hitting acted as their own Trojan horse when their struggles lulled their opponent to sleep for the first six innings until they struck.

Once the UF batters saw a new face on the mound, it was a different game. Third baseman Kirby McMullen went to the plate in the seventh inning and for the first time didn’t see the ace that had kept his team scoreless throughout the night across from him.

He would go on to hit the game-winning two-run single to give UF the first and last lead of the game.

Florida was able to come away with its ninth win a row after a close 3-2 game against Troy Friday night at McKethan Stadium.

It was a less-than-ideal start for No. 1 Florida (9-0) on Friday night. Starting pitcher Tommy Mace gave up three hits in the first inning alone — one of them being an RBI single from Troy catcher Caleb Bartolero.

With runners on first and second, Florida narrowly escaped the first inning with just a 1-0 deficit.

Troy (8-2) would go on to widen the gap in the third inning off a sacrifice hit from junior Easton Kirk. Junior Rigsby Mosely got the run for the Trojans to go up 2-0.

After two innings where the Gators were unable to put points on the board with runners in scoring position, the crowd grew silent at McKethan Stadium. Meanwhile, the visiting dugout would meet its fielders with thunderous screams each time they came in after keeping the top team in the country scoreless.

Until the seventh inning, anyway.

Troy starting pitcher Levi Thomas was relieved by senior Lance Thomas in the seventh and ended his day with an impressive six strikeouts in 108 pitches despite allowing one walk and five hits.

“We were trying to make adjustments but he pitched a really good game against us,” McMullen said. “Whenever he was out of the game we definitely were a little bit relieved for sure.”

The Gators feasted on the reliever and put together an explosive three-run inning with a new face on the mound.

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Senior Austin Langworthy reached base thanks to an error from centerfielder Reed Smith which led to a Josh Rivera run to put the UF on the board for the first time in the game.

Then, McMullen proceeded to get a two-run single during the very next at-bat to give UF the 3-2 lead. Langworthy and freshman Nathan Hickey scored for the Gators.

Mace was relieved in the top of the eighth inning by sophomore Nick Pogue. Mace finished his day with six strikeouts, allowing nine hits and no walks.

Pogue only saw the mound in the eighth inning after allowing one hit and was quickly relieved by sophomore Ben Specht to close it out for UF.

Sure enough, the righty kept Troy scoreless in the ninth to keep UF perfect on the year. You wouldn’t know that if you looked at the Gators dugout, however.

After the game, O’Sullivan spoke to his team and was frank that he was disappointed with their performance.

“To be honest, we weren’t ready to play, I was kind of ticked off about it to be honest with you,” manager Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We’ve got to learn as a team, these rankings mean nothing this time of year.”

Despite this season being the best start in his 13 years at UF, O’Sullivan said that his team was lucky to come out with the win, and the team has a lot of work to do.

“We got to be mature on where we’re at because we are not a finished product,” he said. “Offensively we’re not where we were when we started this season, pitching wise we still got a lot of question marks and defensively we have some lapses mentally.”

Follow Joseph on Twitter @JosephSalvador_ and contact him at jsalvador@alligator.org.

Ben Specht

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