The last time Jack Leftwich started on the mound, he allowed six hits and six earned runs in three innings of work against Troy.
His shaky performance almost cost the Gators, who were down four by the time he was relieved. But Florida stormed back to ultimately beat the Trojans with a six-run flurry in the bottom of the seventh.
Just a week later, however, Leftwich showed why he was chosen as one of UF’s weekend starters. The junior right-hander retired each of the first 18 USF batters he faced Saturday afternoon, as the No. 1 Gators cruised to a 15-5 victory over the Bulls at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium.
Leftwich’s perfect game was ruined in the seventh after walking USF designated hitter Jordan Santos on a 3-2 count. And the righty’s no-hit bid came to an end in the next at-bat when Bulls shortstop Nick Gonzalez singled to center field.
USF (5-9) went on to score three runs in the inning against Leftwich (2-0), who was replaced by right-hander Justin Alintoff with one out remaining and his team up 13-3.
That didn’t take away from Leftwich’s outing, however.
The Orlando native gave up just three hits and three earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched on Saturday, striking out five batters.
Leftwich’s dominant start to the game allowed Florida’s offense to build a comfortable lead in the early stages.
Center fielder Jud Fabian opened the scoring for the Gators in the first inning on a groundout from third baseman Kirby McMullen.
UF extended its lead in the following inning after shortstop Josh Rivera’s single to center field brought home right fielder Jacob Young. In the next at-bat, catcher Cal Greenfield broke an 0-for-16 slump dating back to the fourth game of the season against Jacksonville with a two-RBI single to score Rivera and designated hitter Nathan Hickey, which gave Florida a 4-0 lead.
Young, who came into Saturday’s contest on a 15-game hitting streak, extended that mark to 16 in the third inning with an RBI single to plate McMullen.
After scoring three unearned runs in the fourth inning, the Gators’ lead grew to double digits in the sixth with a three-run blast from first baseman Jordan Butler and a two-run homer from Hickey that ballooned Florida’s lead to 13
Greenfield registered UF’s third and final home run of the afternoon with a two-run bomb in the eighth inning to round out his team’s 15th-consecutive win of the season.
“It was a complete game,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the victory. “(We) got a really good start from Jack (Leftwich). Offensively, we were sharp, had some really good swings…and we played errorless ball defensively.”
The Gators will be back on the diamond Sunday at 1 p.m. in an attempt to sweep USF and prolong its winning streak to 16.
You can contact Bryan Matamoros at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @bryan_2712.