Jud Fabian stepped into the batter’s box in the sixth inning. There were two outs and two men on base. The crowd was relaxed.
Fabian swung, and the ball sailed into the Dizney Grove. The crowd electrified.
The Gators’ bats awakened from their slumber on Thursday night in the 13-4 victory on game one of SEC Opening Weekend against Texas A&M.
“I think guys are kind of excited to prove who we are in the SEC and why people like us so much because we can play,” right-handed pitcher Tommy Mace said.
The first two innings were sluggish. Both the Aggies and the Gators earned just one hit each in the first two frames.
Then came the wave for the Gators.
Catcher Mac Guscette and second baseman Colby Halter’s back-to-back singles followed by a left fielder Jacob Young walk loaded the bases in the third inning. Then, another pair of singles off the bats of designated hitter Nathan Hickey and third baseman Kirby McMullen sent the first three runs across the plate.
The fourth inning doubled the third’s damage.
Guscette opened the inning with a screaming double down the left-field line. Halter followed up with a line drive over the wall for a two-run shot into left field. A double, back-to-back walks and a wild pitch sent another run home. A sac-fly, a hit batter and two consecutive singles accounted for the remainder of the runs that inning.
The massacre continued in the sixth. After giving up three to the Aggies in the top half, the Gators fought back to earn what they lost.
In a two-out rally, Young slapped a ball into left field for his first hit of the game. The RBI single was followed immediately by Fabian’s three-run bomb into the Grove in right-center field.
Guscette established a name for himself at Florida Ballpark on Thursday. The freshman catcher went 4-5 on the night with a double and an RBI single in the fourth inning alone.
“There’s a reason why he was in the lineup tonight, we felt good about where he was at and definitely thought he could handle it,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
Fabian, in his first game back in center field also had a strong day at the plate. The third-year center fielder went 2-5 with a double and a three-run homer for 3 RBIs.
Gators’ starter Mace looked solid on the mound. The right-hander threw a complete seven innings and racked up 11 strikeouts, which tied his career-high. Mace also gave up six hits and only two earned runs.
Mace only ran into brief trouble in the fourth in which he gave up a solo shot to Ty Coleman. In the sixth inning, he gave up a double, a single and a sac fly to score the remaining three Aggie runs.
“He executed a ton of pitches tonight, and set the tone for us,” O’Sullivan said. “He was determined and obviously did exactly what we needed him to do.”
The Gators look to clinch the series with a win on Friday.
Contact Sara Kate Dyson at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @sarakatedyson