Christian Scott hadn’t expected to be on the mound after midnight.
As the game developed, Missouri wished he hadn’t been, either.
On a rainy night in Gainesville that delayed first pitch until well into the night, Florida exploded out of the gate with seven early runs and leaned on Scott’s dominant performance to dispatch Missouri with a three-run victory.
On a drizzly day in Gainesville, the Gators draped the tarp over the infield a few hours longer than planned. With steady rainfall for hours, first pitch waited until 9:22 pm, nearly three full hours after the scheduled start time.
Under the mist and floodlights, Jud Fabian broke Florida Ballpark out of its slumber early with a rocket to left field. His 12th home run of the season, second in the SEC, left his bat with an exit velocity of 111 miles per hour and made it a 1-0 game in Florida’s favor.
Missouri tied the game in the top of the third with a run scored on an errant throw by Kirby McMullen, but the senior third baseman redeemed himself quickly.
With men on second and third in the bottom of the inning, McMullen sent a missile into Dizney Grove behind left-center field, his eighth home run of the year.
“It was definitely a good time for it,” McMullen said. “(It) got a little spark for us.”
The rest of the third inning fared little better for Missouri starter Seth Halvorsen. Three straight hits and a sacrifice fly directly followed McMullen and plated three more runs, including a triple from Tuesday’s hero Kendrick Calilao.
The Gators hit for the cycle as a team in the third, a feat not common in baseball.
“I’ve never even heard of anybody doing that,” McMullen said.
The Tigers refused to stay down, however, and tallied four runs of their own in the top of the fourth behind a double from sophomore third baseman Luke Mann and a single from junior catcher Mike Coletta.
Despite seven runs in the first three innings, the Gators couldn’t pull away, and the lead sat just 7-5 midway through the fourth.
Reliever Christian Scott took the hill with one out in the fourth inning and Missouri’s hit parade ended abruptly from there. Scott forced 12 consecutive outs to start his night and keep the Tigers at arm’s length through the seventh inning.
“We didn’t want to go to him that early but it felt like that was probably a pivotal part of the game,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Obviously, without his outing and his performance tonight, the outcome may have been a little bit different.”
Dating back to Sunday’s victory against Tennessee, Scott’s thrown 10.1 scoreless innings with a combined two hits in his last two appearances.
Florida failed to capitalize on loaded bases in the bottom of the sixth, when an attempted sacrifice fly from Fabian turned into a double play as Missouri’s right fielder Andrew Keefer threw Nathan Hickey out at home.
Scott’s performance offered a margin of error, and Hickey’s fourth hit of the night added an insurance run in the eighth. Hickey’s Friday served as the fifth four-hit game for Florida this season and the third for the freshman catcher himself.
Scott retired the side again in the ninth and the Gators left Florida Ballpark over six hours after their scheduled first pitch, but with a much-needed win.
Florida, now 23-11 and 7-6 in the SEC, looks to clinch the series Saturday at 1 p.m.
Contact Ryan Haley at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.