The Gators fared better in Jacksonville’s wet conditions than the Dolphins did on Tuesday night.
No. 2 Florida defeated Jacksonville 13-3 in a rainy contest at John Sessions Stadium to claim the first game of a home-and-home series.
UF remains undefeated to start the season, advancing to 4-0. JU fell to 1-3.
While both pitching staffs struggled to throw a slick baseball for strikes, UF’s series-opening win against the Dolphins was about taking advantage of opportunities.
Florida pushed its runners across the plate, while Jacksonville turned its players into castaways on the wet base paths.
Jacksonville had a chance to take an early lead against Gators starting pitcher Hunter Barco, who made his first career start. The freshman lefty got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, however.
The Dolphins continued to create early congestion on the bases, producing six base runners through three innings. But the first-year combo of Barco and Nick Ficarrotta allowed no runs for Jacksonville through three.
Barco finished with a line of 48 pitches in two-plus innings pitched, zero earned runs, three hits, three strikeouts, a walk and a hit batter.
JU pitcher Mike Cassala didn’t receive the defensive support Barco did.
Defensive mistakes and a costly error in the fourth inning by third baseman Stephen Moffatt helped Florida get its offense going.
Cassala was dealing over the first two innings before the rain started to fall in the third.
The redshirt junior surrendered just two runners and collected three strikeouts during his first start since returning from Tommy John surgery.
The third and fourth innings weren’t as kind to Cassala.
Florida struck first in the third after a double down the left-field line by center fielder Jud Fabian scored Cal Greenfield, making it 1-0 UF.
Cassala continued to leak until bursting in the fourth.
An error by Dolphins third baseman Moffatt, another RBI base hit by Fabian and a bases-loaded walk by Austin Langworthy made it a 4-0 ballgame after four.
The embattled starter finished the game with a line of 79 pitches through 3.1 innings, four runs surrendered and three earned, seven hits, five strikeouts, one walk and a hit batter.
UF took advantage of JU’s struggling bullpen down the stretch, led by Fabian and Josh Rivera, who both finished the game with three hits and two RBI.
After two quick runs from a reinvigorated JU offense against Gators relievers Ficarrotta and Ryan Cabarcas made it 4-2 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Florida answered back to put the game away for good in the top of the sixth.
UF plated seven runs in an offensive onslaught against JU pitching. The rain started to pile on, causing Jacksonville pitchers to give up four walks and a hit batter in the inning.
Langworthy, Kirby McMullen, Cory Acton, Jacob Young, Nathan Hickey and Rivera all collected an RBI in the sixth, and when the Dolphins defense finally shuffled off of the field, the Gators had made it 11-2.
The game went quiet after Florida’s offensive surge, but both Florida and Jacksonville tacked on a few runs in the eighth.
UF and JU will hit the replay button on Wednesday at 6 p.m., this time in Gainesville at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium to close out the two-game set.
Follow Dylan O'Shea on Twitter @dylanoshea24. Conact him at [email protected].