JJ Schwarz

Senior catcher JJ Schwarz hit his team-leading third home run of the season Friday night against Miami. 

Center fielder Nick Horvath coiled his arms into his sides, arched his back and glared at Miami starting pitcher Jeb Bargfeldt. With a runner on first base in the third inning, the Gators were in unfamiliar territory: losing in a baseball game against the Hurricanes.

With his team down 3-0, Horvath sank his hips and nearly dropped to his back knee as he belted a 1-2 breaking ball into the South Florida evening air and into a palm tree just beyond the left-field wall.

The two-run homer broke the ice for the Gators offense in a 7-3 win Friday night at Alex Rodriguez Park in Coral Gables, Florida.

Horvath might have been the veteran least expected to ignite the run-scoring effort for the Gators. Just one of two seniors on the team, Horvath was just 0-for-1 in the last series the two rivals played in Coral Gables. He entered 2018 having hit just .173 for his career with four extra-base hits.

But 2018 has been a different story for the two-way player. Before Friday, Horvath was batting .417 (5-for-12) with two doubles in three games. Against the Hurricanes, he matched that production by going 2-for-4 with 4 RBIs and a double to go along with his second-inning dinger.

For the Gators, the win marked their 10th in the last 12 against Miami.

“Credit Miami's hitters, they came out very aggressive and we left some balls up in the zone and they took advantage of it,” coach Kevin O’Sullivan said in a release. “The first road game is not easy.”

The other senior on the team, catcher JJ Schwarz, continued his offensive outbreak as well.

The captain added a home run of his own in the top of the fifth. On a 2-2 fastball speeding over the plate just below his knees, Schwarz’s swing resembled more golf than baseball, but it got the job done all the same. The ball flew to nearly the same spot over the left-field wall as Horvath’s, but Schwarz’s hit off the light pole just to the left of the palm tree. Schwarz wrapped up his night by hitting  3-for-5 with two runs scored.

Friday night starter Brady Singer came out shaky in the first inning. The right-hander allowed three runs on five hits. Singer gave up a double to the right-field gap to Hurricanes leadoff man Michael Burns and, four pitches later, a two-run shot to third baseman Michael Perez on a chest-high fastball.

After the first, however, the junior from Eustis, Florida, settled down and found a groove. Through the next four innings he pitched, he allowed four hits — a single in each frame — and struck out three. While far from his best performance, Singer and the rest of the pitching staff wouldn’t allow a Miami baserunner to get past second base the rest of the night. Freshman right-hander Tommy Mace took the mound in the sixth inning and finished the game without allowing a hit while striking out three.

Saturday night, both teams return to the field at 7 for the middle match of the three-game series. The Gators will start right-hander Jackson Kowar. The junior pitched seven innings in his first start of the season and struck out 10 batters after allowing two runs in the first.

“I’m really pleased with how he finished the last four innings last week against Siena,” O’Sullivan said. “Hopefully, he can continue that and get us off to a good start (Saturday).”

Follow Morgan McMullen on Twitter @MorganMcMuffin and contact him at [email protected].

Morgan is the sports editor at The Independent Florida Alligator. He has previously covered the Gators baseball and women's basketball teams. He began working at the Alligator in spring 2016.