With runners at first and third, Jacob Young stood at the plate in the top of the eleventh inning with his team’s undefeated record resting on his shoulders.
Despite the fast winds and hostile environment, Young sent a ground ball right over third base for the game-winning RBI.
The Gators defeated the Miami Hurricanes 2-1 in front of a sellout crowd in Coral Gables, Florida, on Friday in what was an epic showdown.
Florida (6-0) came into the in-state clash riding high off its hitting. The No. 2 Gators had 51 runs through just five games, but their first ranked opponent of the season proved to be problematic from the mound.
That problem was Brian Van Belle.
The redshirt junior and his changeup left UF batters swinging at nothing but the 17 mile-per-hour winds for much of the game. The Gators were held scoreless for the first four innings.
The top of the fifth was when No. 3 Miami’s ace finally showed signs of imperfection.
With the bases loaded and no outs, sophomore Kris Armstrong hit one to UM shortstop Anthony Vilar, but a throwing error allowed second baseman Cory Acton to score for the Gators.
Florida’s Tommy Mace was not to be outdone on the mound. The junior went pitch for pitch with Van Belle and kept the Gators close in a tight one down the stretch.
The Hurricanes (4-1) tied it up at one in the sixth inning when Jordan Lala scored off junior Raymond Gil’s sacrifice fly to center field.
Both Mace and Van Belle continued to put on a masterful duel for the South Florida crowd until Miami elected to rest their starter in the eighth inning still tied 1-1. Van Belle threw for seven innings, had seven strikeouts and only walked one runner on 83 pitches.
Senior Tyler Keysor replaced Van Belle on the mound for Miami but was quickly subbed out for lefty JP Gates after he walked UF center fielder Jud Fabian in the eighth.
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan also decided to make a pitching change and replaced Mace with sophomore Christian Scott in the same inning. Mace finished the day with eight strikeouts and allowed just two hits and walked two batters in seven innings.
Both pitching staffs continued to keep batters in check, and the stalemate continued to force extra innings. That’s where Young had the biggest hit of the night for the Gators to take the lead.
Now all UF had to do was hold on.
In the bottom of the 11th with a 2-1 lead — and after sophomore Ben Specht walked Vilar in four pitches — sophomore Nick Pogue took the mound for UF to seal it in Coral Gables.
Florida’s pitching staff threw a collective 10 strikeouts and allowed just three hits and four walks while Miami threw 14 strikeouts and allowed eight hits and two walks in the nailbiter.
The second game of the Miami-hosted three-game series will be Saturday at 7 p.m.
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