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Friday, April 16, 2021

Gators sweep Florida A&M in double-header showdown on Friday

The Gators toppled Florida A&M in both games Friday night to open the weekend series

<p>Tommy Mace strides towards home last season. The junior surrendered just two earned runs in seven innings in Game 1 against Florida A&amp;M Friday night. </p>

Tommy Mace strides towards home last season. The junior surrendered just two earned runs in seven innings in Game 1 against Florida A&M Friday night.

Colby Halter stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the eighth inning. Three of his teammates resided on the bases. They all slowly crept off their bags, taking leads generous enough to reach home on any contact. 

The crack of Halter’s bat echoed through the anxious crowd as the ball sailed into the sky and out of sight until it landed beneath the scoreboard in right field. Four runs crossed. Halter set the tone for the night. 

After a rare disappearance on Wednesday night, the Gators’ offense returned to the limelight on Friday’s double-header against Florida A&M. The Gators took game one with a final score of 10-2, and game two 5-1.

The Gators took the first cut in game one, scoring one in the top of the first inning. Jud Fabian walked, Nathan Hickey slapped a double down the right-field line, which opened the door for Kirby McMullen. He drove a liner into left field, which sent Fabian home. 

Jacob Young got himself an RBI and extended his hit streak to 28 games in one swing. He drove one into right-field in the bottom of the second for the Gators’ second run of the game.

The Gators earned a run in the bottom of the fourth on a wild pitch off Kyle Coleman’s arm that dribbled to the backstop. They picked up another pair in the fifth with an Acton single into left field. 

The eighth inning welcomed the strong bat of Colby Halter. The third baseman sent the final four runs across the plate courtesy of his grand slam over the wall in right field.

“It was only my second grand slam of my life, so it was definitely a special moment,” Halter said.

Tommy Mace went a complete seven innings to open up the series. He gave up just four hits and two runs over 96 pitches. He allowed one run to cross in the second after a Grant Rowell triple and a Joseph Pierini single. The other run, a leadoff solo shot for Octavien Moyer, crossed in the sixth. 

“It was a clean baseball game,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.

Game two carried on in a slightly different manner than its predecessor. 

In the first game, the Gators notched just one or two runs on the board each inning to crescendo in what turned into a dominant lead. In the second game, the bulk of the runs came in a single wave. 

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The bats were relatively silent throughout the first two innings. The Gators reached base more due to walks than on their own accord.

Then, in the third inning, Fabian launched a rocket into center field to light the fire. The ball took a hop at the warning track and Fabian had a stand-up double. Another walk to Hickey followed by two-consecutive singles sent the first two runs home for the Gators. 

A fielder’s choice off the bat of Acton and a single into center field from Mac Guscette sent the next two across the plate. That was all the Gators would get until the eighth inning, though.

Young managed to send a liner through the gap and into left field in the fifth, which extended his hit streak to 29 games. The left-fielder tied the school record for the longest hit streak held by Tim Olson.

Jack Leftwich had a marathon game. He threw eight complete innings. The right-hander gave up just four hits and one run and dealt eight strikeouts over 97 pitches. His sole run was a Rowell solo bomb into the left berm in the bottom of the seventh inning. 

Halter was the brightest offensive star of the night for the Gators. The freshman baseman went 4-8 with five RBIs. Four of them courtesy of his grand slam in the bottom of the eighth. 

“I feel like our team as a whole had really good at-bats all night,” Halter said. “It was obviously a really good bounce-back.” 

The dominance on the mound and at the plate proved deadly for the Rattlers and the Gators already took the series in just one day of play. The Gators go for the sweep on Sunday with first pitch set for 1 p.m.

Contact Sara Kate Dyson at skatedyson@alligator.org or follow her on Twitter at @sarakatedyson

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