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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Gators continue to excel at the plate as they sweep Ospreys in weekday series

The Gators have at least six runs and double-digits hits in all five games they have played in 2021

Through five games, the team averaged 7.8 runs and 12.6 hits per game. Photo from UF-Miami game Feb. 21, 2021. Courtesy of UAA.
Through five games, the team averaged 7.8 runs and 12.6 hits per game. Photo from UF-Miami game Feb. 21, 2021. Courtesy of UAA.

Jud Fabian’s second home run flew like a bullet into the Wednesday night sky and blew Florida’s second game against UNF wide open in the fifth inning. 

The ball thudded hard into the grass berms and felt like a powerful reinforcement of what the stat sheet made painfully apparent during week one. This Gator offense could be special.

Through five games, the team averaged 7.8 runs and 12.6 hits per game. They haven’t scored less than six runs or connected on less than 11 hits in any of their games. The team has a combined batting average of .312 and slugging percentage of .465.

Is this sustainable for an entire season? Maybe not. But even a little regression could make this a historic season at the plate for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s team. 

No Florida offense has batted higher than .300 since 2011 (.307). In fact, no Florida offense has batted higher than .290 since 2015 (.298). It may only be five games into the season, but if the Gators can keep this .312 pace, it would be the highest of any UF team since 2007, the first year the school has official record on its website.

The most compelling part is that the Gators’ offense was strong despite four poor games from star slugger Jud Fabian, one of the biggest offensive weapons on the team.

A year ago, in the 17 games before the season was suspended, Fabian was batting .294, the fifth-highest of any qualifying Gator, and led the team with five home runs, six doubles and 13 RBIs. He ranked second on the team in slugging percentage (.603) and walks (13) and fourth in on-base percentage (.407).

Before his two home run performance Wednesday against UNF, Fabian had connected on only a .158 hit rate, with only three hits against eight strikeouts. He hadn’t hit an extra-base hit and brought in only a single RBI.

Fabian caught up with the rest of his team against the Ospreys, his pair of homers contributing to a 2-4 night at the plate that brought home five RBIs. 

As for the rest of the team? Seven players, all with multiple starts, are batting over .300, with Jordan Butler (.421) and Nathan Hickey (.400) pacing the Gators at the plate. Hickey and Butler also lead the team in RBIs with six apiece. 

Left fielder Jacob Young teeters on the cusp of history. After recording a hit in every 2020 game, he has one in each of the first five games of 2021. His hit streak now spans 636 days with the chance to extend it further when he takes the field Friday. 

If Young records another hit against Samford, he’ll tie the longest hit streak in the O’Sullivan era at Florida, matching Jonathan India’s 24-game mark from three years ago.

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While the Gator bats make history, Florida’s arms try to steady themselves after an opening stretch even O’Sullivan deemed inexplicable. 

UF had one of its best mound performances of the year against UNF Wednesday after struggling out of the bullpen opening weekend against Miami.

After a two-run home run from Osprey infielder Abraham Sequera contributed to a three-run ninth inning the day before, Christian Scott and a pair of freshman arms dazzled as the Gators held their opponents scoreless for eight innings Wednesday night. 

Freshman Chase Centala starred in his first collegiate start. After a disappointing relief performance on opening night that saw three hits and no outs, the right-hander recorded four strikeouts and allowed the same number of hits in 4.0 innings of work. 

Third-year sophomore Christian Scott continued as the best reliever in orange and blue. He didn’t allow a base runner in the seventh inning to keep his ERA a pure 0.00 in 6.2 innings this season — the most time any Gator has spent on the mound in 2021. Freshman Timmy Manning then closed the game and the sweep with two scoreless innings.

Now 3-2 with a series loss to Miami, Florida’s season start surprised most Florida fans because the team began as the unanimous No. 1. If the bats can stay even close to this hot and more relievers step up, the team still has every chance to be special. 

Contact Ryan Haley at rhaley@alligator.org or follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley

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Ryan Haley

Ryan Haley is a second-year journalism major with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida. He grew up playing a bunch of different sports before settling on golf, following Rory McIlroy and all Philadelphia sports teams. He also loves all things fiction, reading, watching shows and movies and talking about whatever current story or character is in his head.


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