With a 6-3 lead into the seventh-inning stretch, Florida center fielder Jud Fabian entered the right-handed batter’s box with a swing-early approach.
On an 0-1 count, the sophomore Ocala native drove an 85 mile-per-hour two-seamer to the opposite field and over the right-field wall.
“I just kept my hands back, kept my body back and threw the hands and got barrel on it,” Fabian said. “I knew if I hit it that way, the wind’s blowing that way, so I got a shot and it ended up going over.”
Fabian’s solo shot — his team-leading eighth home run this season — added an insurance run to give the Gators a 7-3 advantage.
Following a 3-1 win over the Aggies Friday night, Florida’s bats came alive Saturday afternoon to complete the sweep with an 8-4 victory.
”I’m really proud of the way the guys battled and bounced back from Tuesday night,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s amazing when you’re coaching young people how quickly the script can get flipped. Last Tuesday feels like three weeks ago.”
The hit parade began in the bottom of the first when Florida left fielder Jacob Young and Fabian led off with a pair of singles to put runners on the corners. Texas A&M left-hander Jonathan Childress tried picking off Fabian but Young scored from third after an errant throw.
After a scoreless second inning, the Gators tagged Childress for another three runs in the bottom of the third. A walk and a single put two runners aboard for third baseman Kirby McMullen. The cleanup hitter smashed a three-run bomb — his fifth home run since Mar. 9 — over the left-center-field wall to extend the lead to 4-0.
The Gators tacked on one more run in the fifth courtesy of a fielder’s choice before the Aggies broke freshman southpaw Hunter Barco’s shutout in the top of the sixth. Barco surrendered only two hits until the sixth inning when he gave up a trio of singles to the heart of Texas A&M’s lineup.
Florida answered in the bottom half with a pair of doubles to regain its four-run lead. Right fielder Sterlin Thompson poked a leadoff double into the right-center gap before third baseman Colby Halter delivered a clutch RBI-double into right.
Taking the hill for his seventh frame, Barco allowed four consecutive base hits and another earned run before O’Sullivan called the bullpen for junior right-hander Franco Aleman.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Aleman faced a high-pressure situation. He conceded a run on a passed ball, but the 6-foot-6-inch junior settled in comfortably and struck out the next three batters.
“When I come in in that situation, I just try to simplify it,” Aleman said. “I try to throw a strike every pitch . . . to get anything in play. In that case, I was throwing it right by people.”
After Fabian’s solo shot made it 7-3, Florida catcher Mac Guscette hit a two-out RBI-single for one final insurance run.
Despite his early-season struggles, Aleman pitched three strong innings and earned his third save this season. He threw a 10-pitch eighth inning before yielding a run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly.
O’Sullivan said he will start to give Aleman more breathing room to pitch instead of waiting until the ninth inning.
“I think we’re going to get more out of him in that role like we did today,” he said.
The Gators get five days off ahead of their first road series in Columbia, South Carolina. They’ll face the No. 16 Gamecocks in the series opener Friday at 7 p.m.
O’Sullivan anticipates a different type of challenge on the road as Florida has only two away games under its belt.
“It’s going to be a learning experience,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how we play and how we respond, but we certainly have a lot of things to figure out.”
Contact Griffin Foll at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GriffinFoll
Griffin Foll is a sophomore at UF studying journalism sports and media. He is one of The Alligator's women’s basketball beat writers. Griffin is also a UF softball beat reporter for ChompTalk.com and contributes weekly articles for ESPN Gainesville.