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UF Baseball: Fabian’s Star Performance Powers Gators Past North Florida

Jud Fabian showed why he is a highly-touted MLB Draft prospect Wednesday night.

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY ZACH DIRLAM

Third-year sophomore outfielder Jud Fabian broke out of his hitting slump and made one of Florida’s two dazzling outfield assists, as the Gators defeated North Florida, 9-3 and swept the home-and-home series.

With the game scoreless in the bottom of the third inning, Fabian blasted a ball over the wall in left center for his first home run of the season. After Florida loaded the bases with no outs and scored a run via a sacrifice fly from third-year sophomore outfielder Jacob Young, Fabian smashed a three-run homer with a scorching exit velocity of 112 miles per hour.

North Florida loaded the bases and cleared them on a three-RBI double with two outs in the top of the sixth, and it looked as though a fourth run would come home after a single to center the next at bat. Enter Fabian. The Ocala, Fla., native cut down the runner at the plate and ended the Ospreys’ rally.

In the bottom of the sixth, Fabian collected his fifth RBI of the night with a bases-loaded walk. Second-year freshman catcher Nathan Hickey made it a 7-3 game the next at bat with a sacrifice fly, tying Fabian and fourth-year junior utility player Jordan Butler for the team lead in RBI (six).

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Florida added another insurance run in the seventh via a sacrifice fly from third-year sophomore utility player Kendrick Calilao.

Freshman right-hander Chase Centala started on the mound and threw four scoreless innings, effectively bouncing back from his collegiate debut last Friday in which he did not record an out. Graduate left-hander Trey Van Der Weide picked up the win in relief, while third-year sophomore right-hander Christian Scott and freshman left-hander Timmy Manning combined for three scoreless innings of one-hit baseball.

In addition to extending his hitting streak to 23 games, Young threw the potential tying runner out at home in the top of the fourth inning. Young is nearing the longest hitting streak of the Kevin O’Sullivan era (24 games by Jonathan India in 2018), while the 21-year-old school record is held by Tim Olson (29 games).

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Fabian. The highly-touted Major League Baseball Draft prospect had just three hits in his first 20 at bats this season but broke through with the second multi-home run game of his career – the other came in a Sunday outing against Yale in 2019. His five RBI Wednesday night were the most in a game since Jordan Butler had the same number against South Florida last season (March 7, 2020).

Then for good measure Fabian flashed his defensive prowess with the outfield assist. It was an all-around night for one of the top candidates to be the best all-around player in the country by season’s end.

STANDOUT STAT: Two – walks by the Gators pitching staff. Florida averaged 10 walks and hit batsmen per game opening weekend, but it has just five in the last two games. Though Coach O’Sullivan was unhappy both walks contributed to UNF’s three-run sixth inning, the massive reduction in free passes was a big positive for Florida’s pitching staff the last two nights.

FROM COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN

On how the team responded this week after the opening series against Miami…
“I don’t want to talk about the series Miami. That’s the weekend. It’s over with. It’s a long season. Like I said before the series against Miami, putting way too much emphasis on one weekend. These guys have been off for 11 months. Our last intrasquad was on Tuesday leading up to Miami, we have off Wednesday, an hour and a half practice on Thursday… there’s no spring training games. The idea is to get better. We keep talking about Miami, but that’s over with.

“I thought we bounced back tonight. Only thing I’m concerned about is our team playing good. I thought tonight was the cleanest game we’ve played. Got a great start by [Chase] Centala. I thought Trey [Van Der Weide] came in and threw strikes; he just got himself in a situation where we just scored four and turned around and gave up three. That’s probably the only negative. We got a walk involved in there. It was good to get Timmy Manning out there. Christian [Scott] did his job. Jud [Fabian] got back on track. His attitude’s been outstanding. He’s been working really hard and he’s always talking to the coaches in between at bats. He’s not putting his head down and sulking, going to the other end of the dugout.

“I’m excited about how we played tonight. And I’m looking forward to playing this weekend against Samford.”

UP NEXT: Florida welcomes Samford to Florida Ballpark for a three-game series Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

First pitch Friday night is slated for 6:30 p.m., with SECNetwork+ providing live streaming. Saturday’s game will begin at 4 p.m., while Sunday’s game will start at 1 p.m. All three games will be available via radio on ESPN 98.1FM/850AM WRUF.

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