The first time, a mid-game offensive avalanche buried them.
The second time, a comeback effort fell doomed into first baseman Jordan Butler’s glove.
Tuesday, the Stetson baseball team gets one final try to beat the Florida Gators as they return to Florida Ballpark for a third game in 2021.
The Gators enter on fire after taking down then-No. 2 Vanderbilt in a statement series victory Sunday. Florida won 10 of its past 12 games and flew all the way up to 10th in Baseball America’s most recent rankings, now in the hunt to host a coveted regional championship.
Now 30-13 and 13-8 in the SEC, Florida sits a game out of first place in the East division and two games back of No. 1 Arkansas in a conference it was nearly unanimously tabbed to win before the season.
Catcher Nathan Hickey continues to bully opposing pitchers into submission. Hickey paces the Gators with a .350 batting average, a .475 on-base percentage and 43 RBIs, the latter of which tied for 37th-most in the country. The freshman’s 1.067 on-base plus slugging percentage is the highest of any Gator since Jonathan India’s 1.214 in 2018.
Left-fielder Jacob Young knocked his only home run of 2021 against the Hatters the first time the two teams clashed, a solo shot to left field. The sophomore leads the Gators with 57 hits and 13 doubles.
Young and Hickey feasted at the plate against Stetson this season. The duo combined for 10 hits in 16 plate appearances in the previous two contests, and drove in six runs in Florida’s 10-7 victory on March 10.
Florida hasn’t announced who will start on the mound Tuesday, but right-hander Garrett Milchin began all but one Tuesday game this season and offered one of his better performances of the year against Stetson on April 6. Milchin struck out four batters and relinquished just two hits and two earned runs in five innings.
Milchin also comes off the best night of his college career. He threw a personal-best six innings with a career-high five strikeouts against Florida State on April 13. He allowed three hits and just a single earned run.
Stetson, 23-17 in 2021, shouldn’t be overlooked. The Hatters scored the first run in both games against Florida this season, including jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the second inning in March.
However, they won just four of their past 11 games with five of those seven losses being multiple-run defeats. Stetson won just one of their past three weekend series.
Graduate student Hernan Sardinas continues to command the Hatters at the plate, with a team-high .356 batting average. He leads Stetson with 52 hits, 41 RBIs, 16 doubles and a .603 slugging percentage. He’s also one of only two players with six home runs.
First pitch is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Contact Ryan Haley at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ryan_dhaley
Ryan Haley, a UF journalism senior with a sports & media specialization from Jacksonville, Florida, is Summer 2022's Engagement Managing Editor. 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.