The Gators entered Thursday night's game against Missouri in a must-win situation as the regular season winds down and the team's 11-year streak of NCAA Tournament appearances stands in jeopardy.
They earned a key victory in Columbia, Missouri, outlasting the Tigers 5-4 behind solid pitching performances from starter Tommy Mace and reliever Jordan Butler.
No. 21 Missouri (34-19-1, 13-14-1 SEC) broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth inning after a back-and-forth pitching battle between Mace and Tigers starter Konnor Ash.
Mizzou catcher Chad McDaniel earned his only RBI of the game off of a sacrifice fly to center that scored center fielder Kameron Misner.
The Tigers quickly lost that 1-0 edge when UF (31-23, 11-17 SEC) scored four runs in the top of the fifth.
Third baseman Cory Acton blasted a two-run homer to right, his fifth of the season, to put the Gators up 2-1.
Later in the inning, fellow freshman Jud Fabian hit a bomb of his own, smacking a 1-2 pitch from Ash to center, scoring second baseman Jacob Young and putting Florida up by three.
Ash was pinned with his second loss of the season after pitching five innings, giving up five earned runs on seven hits. He struck out four while walking one during his outing.
UF brought a 5-1 advantage into the bottom of the seventh, but walks and costly errors almost allowed Mizzou to tie or take the lead during the inning.
The Tigers cut the lead to 5-2 when right fielder Connor Brumfield walked, scoring second baseman Mark Vierling from third.
An error by Young with the bases loaded allowed Missouri to score two unearned runs, narrowing Florida's lead to just one.
Butler relieved Mace with two outs in the inning. He preserved Florida's one-run lead by striking out Peter Zimmermann with the bases loaded.
"What can you say about Jordan Butler," coach Kevin O'Sullivan said in a release. "For him to come out there tonight and do exactly what we asked him to do in the pen and make that quick of an adjustment with his delivery, it was awesome."
As a result, Mace grabbed his eighth win of the season after pitching 6.2 innings, giving up four runs (two earned) on six hits. He gave up four walks while striking out just two Mizzou batters.
Butler finished up the game on the mound for UF, pitching 2.1 innings, striking out four, and earning his first save of the season on Thursday night.
"It's a learning moment for these guys. We haven't played well on the road," O'Sullivan said. “This team needed something good to happen, and this was one we needed to pull out."
Follow Evan Lepak on Twitter @evanmplepak. Contact him at [email protected].