It’s been 18 years since the Gators started a season 11-0.
The thought of reaching that mark for the third time in program history was almost derailed in the first two games of Florida’s weekend series against Troy, with UF having to come from behind in both instances.
Sunday’s contest was much different, however, as the No. 1 Gators never trailed in a 7-1 victory over the Trojans at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium.
Freshman left-hander Hunter Barco and his heaters left Troy’s batters frozen to start the game.
His 91- to 93-mph fastballs led to six strikeouts through three innings and limited the Trojans to just one hit during that span.
Among the early K’s was Troy left fielder Rigsby Mosley, who led the Trojans (8-4) with a .460 batting average heading into Sunday’s game. Mosley had the upper hand against the rest of Florida’s pitching staff on Friday and Saturday, going 4 of 10 from the plate with four RBI and one homer. But Barco struck him out looking for the first time over the weekend in the game’s first at-bat.
After center fielder Jud Fabian and left fielder Austin Langworthy both flew out to begin the bottom of the first, third baseman Kirby McMullen drew a walk against Troy starting pitcher Tyson Ellis. In the next at-bat, designated hitter Jordan Butler nailed an RBI double to left center, which brought home McMullen to give the Gators an early 1-0 lead.
Ellis had a clean second inning, but he completely unraveled in the third.
He started to lose control, so much so that the trail of his pitches looked like that of a hurricane’s projected path through the Atlantic Ocean: unpredictable.
Fabian doubled to left field in Florida’s first at-bat of the inning before advancing to third base on a wild pitch from Troy’s right-hander.
Ellis responded by retiring Langworthy and McMullen, but he walked Butler, who made his way to second base thanks to another wild pitch. Right fielder Jacob Young drew a walk minutes later to load the bases for Florida.
In the following at-bat, Ellis nailed first baseman Kendrick Calilao on the helmet with a pitch, which allowed Fabian to cross home plate and double UF’s lead.
Troy’s starting pitcher was subsequently replaced by right-hander Marquez Oates for the last out of the third. Ellis finished the day with just one strikeout, giving up two hits, two earned runs and four walks in 2.2 innings of work.
The Trojans finally got on the board in the fourth when catcher Caleb Bartolero scored on a sac fly from second baseman Austin Garofalo, but that didn’t ruin Barco’s impressive outing.
Florida’s first-year pitcher allowed just one earned run and four hits in five innings pitched to go along with a career-high nine strikeouts. By the time Barco (2-0) was relieved by right-hander Christian Scott at the top of the sixth, the Gators led 4-1.
Fabian helped Florida secure a victory two innings later with a three-run blast over the left-field wall. His home run in the bottom of the eighth was his fifth of the season, which leads the team.
With a road win against Florida Atlantic on Tuesday, the Gators would be off to their best start in program history.
You can contact Bryan Matamoros at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @bryan_2712.