Jacob Young knew the second he made contact that he had just won the game. He didn’t make it halfway down the basepath before he started screaming, and his teammates mobbed him on the infield dirt.
The third-year left fielder’s single in the bottom of the ninth brought home the winning run, giving the Gators a 10-9 win over Samford to solidify a sweep and give Florida it’s fifth win in a row.
The journey to Young’s heroics was volatile.
Sophomore Hunter Barco took the mound for his second straight Sunday start. After a rough outing against Miami that included six earned runs in just 3.1 innings, he seemed set for another uncomfortable day early. Samford first baseman Sonny DiChiara took him deep to right-center for a two-run home run in the top of the first.
Barco buckled down. He struck out a career-high 10 and allowed just four hits in five innings of work, although he did allow a second home run to senior center fielder Ayrton Schafer. But head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said Barco’s outing was solid overall.
“I’m really, really pleased with how he pitched,” O’Sullivan said. “His line (five earned runs) is not indicative of how he threw.”
The southpaw retired 12 consecutive batters between the two home runs, including eight through strikeouts.
Florida’s bats got off to a blistering start. Jud Fabian erased the 2-0 deficit in the Gators’ second at-bat with a home run — his fourth since Wednesday.
Young brought in his first RBI with a 2nd-inning double to make it 4-2. Freshman Colby Halter, who started at third base, hit a single with the bases loaded in the third to make it 6-2. The Gators remained in cruise control on their way to a sweep after they outscored Samford 24-4 the previous twelve innings.
Then came the sixth inning. Franco Aleman, UF’s junior righty who struggled Feb. 20 against Miami, appeared in relief and walked two batters, only recording a single out. Florida freshman Chase Centala then allowed two singles that brought home three Samford runs.
After leading almost the entire day, the Gators trailed 8-6.
In the eighth inning, Fabian strode to the batter’s box like a superhero. A single with the bases loaded tied the game for the Gators. After only one RBI through four games, Fabian has brought home 11 the past five days.
The star felt the pressure to perform to O’Sullivan but has now settled in as the season matures.
“It just takes a little bit of time,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s certainly seeing the ball a lot better than he did early on.”
A fielding error allowed Nathan Hickey to reach first and bring home another run, and with one inning to go, the Gators held the lead again, 9-8.
It was short-lived, though. With Samford down to its final out in the top of the ninth, DeChiara powered his second home run of the day and fifth of the year. His solo shot flew the right field berm. For the third time, it was tie game.
Enter Jacob Young.
After a throwing error and two walks loaded the bases, the outfielder walked to the batter’s box, dug in and connected on the first pitch he saw. His single into the left-center gap scored the winning run and gave Florida the walk-off victory.
“It’s a great feeling when you have all your teammates running after you,” Young said
The Gators hope to win a sixth game in a row Wednesday when they host FAU.
Contact Ryan Haley at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley
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.