Tied at two entering the eighth inning, Ole Miss shortstop Jacob Gonzalez dug into the batter’s box with the go-ahead run on second.
On a 2-1 count, Gonzalez tattooed a two-run bomb over the right-field wall that silenced the home crowd at Florida Ballpark.
“We were good through seven innings today on the mound, and then, obviously, it got away from us,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.
The Rebels added four insurance runs in the top of the ninth to seal the victory. Following a series-opening victory Thursday, No. 15 Florida lost to No. 3 Ole Miss 8-2 Friday night.
Florida right-hander Christian Scott earned his first start this season for the Gators and pitched five innings. The sophomore allowed a pair of runs in the first two innings, but he held Ole Miss off the scoreboard the next three frames. Scott finished his outing with a career-high seven strikeouts.
Scott said he locked in better after the first two innings.
“The last three innings, I was really able to throw the slider where I wanted to, and it was a good outpitch, so we had a lot of swings and misses,” he said.
The Gators etched their first mark on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second inning. First baseman Jordan Butler drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third base on an errant pick-off attempt. Two batters later, designated hitter Kris Armstrong hit a two-out RBI single.
Following the seventh inning stretch, center fielder Jud Fabian hit a solo shot — his team-high ninth home run this season — into the Ole Miss bullpen to tie the game. The dinger snapped Fabian’s slump at the plate, which persisted for 19 consecutive at-bats dating back to March 20.
O’Sullivan dropped Fabian from his usual two-hole in the lineup to six. The move didn’t help the sophomore’s confidence as the nation’s strikeout leader went down on strikes his first two at-bats.
“The whole dugout was really, really excited for him,’ O’Sullivan said. “We had the momentum there, and we just weren't able to keep it.”
Florida right-hander Jack Leftwich picked up his second loss this season after he surrendered six earned runs in the eighth and ninth frames. Gonzalez’ two-run homer gave Ole Miss a 4-2 lead until a pair of two-run singles made it 8-2.
After a majority of their outs (45 out of 81) last weekend were strikeouts, the strikeout train continued Friday. Florida allowed the Ole Miss right-hander to accumulate a season-high 11 strikeouts. In the final three frames, Florida racked up seven more strikeouts against the Rebel bullpen.
“We’ve just got to be more aggressive early in the count,” O’Suillivan said. “When you strike out 18 times, . . . [they] only have to defend nine outs.”
The teams will return to Florida Ballpark Saturday for a rubber match. First pitch will fly at 1 p.m. and air on SEC Network+.
Contact Griffin Foll at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GriffinFoll
Griffin Foll is a sophomore at UF studying journalism sports and media. He is one of The Alligator's women’s basketball beat writers. Griffin is also a UF softball beat reporter for ChompTalk.com and contributes weekly articles for ESPN Gainesville.