The explosive crack of Jud Fabian’s bat brought Florida Ballpark to its feet.
The baseball disappeared into a cloudless blue sky as Fabian lingered in the batter’s box and watched it fly. It came down on Hull Road over left field and gave a brief surprise to a red sports car driving by.
The mammoth fly ball set the tone early for what turned into a beatdown as the Gators disposed of FAMU during a 10-0 victory via mercy rule after seven innings.
Fabian’s 10th home run of 2021 gave the Gators an immediate 3-0 lead in the opening inning.
It also served as Fabian’s third hit in his past 35 plate appearances, but the star center fielder said it could be a sign of things to come. He set out to be more aggressive at the plate after saying he took too many strikes during the slump.
“I got back to where I was last year and having confidence,” Fabian said. “I had confidence yesterday in the box and I had confidence tonight in the box.”
The next inning, freshman Nathan Hickey snuck a double down the right foul line. Both left fielder Jacob Young and catcher Cal Greenfield scored and Florida held a 5-0 lead early.
The Rattlers never managed to cut into that lead, though not for lack of opportunity.
They loaded the bases to chase Florida starter Timmy Manning in the third, but a groundout halted the rally before it could touch the scoreboard. They loaded the bases with two outs again in the top of the fifth, but a fly out to Jud Fabian once again cut a potential run down at the roots.
Florida A&M stranded 13 runners on base for the night, never able to make any momentum tangible.
The Florida arms yielded the chances more than the Rattlers’ bats. Manning yielded 6 walks in 2.2 innings to start the game, and the trend continued. Florida walked 10 batters over the course of the night, its most since a Feb. 20 loss to Miami.
With the six-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, Florida put the pedal to the floor one final time to leave a little early.
Five straight Gators reached base safely, and a two-RBI single from Greenfield and a wild pitch brought Florida within a run of an early curtain call.
Hickey strode to the batter’s box confidently and stroked his fourth hit of the night, a one-hop line drive to left field that comfortably brought home Greenfield and provided the 10th and final run Florida needed to send the Rattlers on their way.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a walk-off,” Hickey said. “It was fun getting the last hit of the game.”
Florida’s now won four of their previous five games and the team leaves for Knoxville, Tennessee, early Thursday morning for a three-game weekend series against the Volunteers.
Florida’s previous road conference stand went nothing like they hoped, a sweep at the hands of South Carolina. Still, Fabian believes the Gators could author an entirely different story this time around.
“We’re dangerous when we play confident,” Fabian said. “Look for us to play confident this weekend.”
Florida’s three-game weekend series against Tennessee kicks off Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Contact Ryan Haley at email@example.com and 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.