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UF Baseball: Gators Bounce Back with Win over UNF

Nathan Hickey and Jordan Butler extended their hot starts in Jacksonville Tuesday night.

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY ZACH DIRLAM

The No. 7-ranked Gators bounced back from a rocky opening weekend with a 9-6 road win over North Florida at Harmon Stadium Tuesday night.

Florida struck first with three consecutive singles from third-year sophomore outfielder Jacob Young, third-year sophomore Jud Fabian, and second-year catcher Nathan Hickey. Young was caught in a rundown attempting to score on the third hit, but fifth-year senior Kirby McMullen reloaded the bases with a walk, and fourth-year junior utility player Jordan Butler smacked a sacrifice fly to drive in the game’s first run.

North Florida tied the game with a pair of two-out hits and a Gators fielding error in the bottom of the first.

But the Gators responded in the third with a four-run inning. Hickey led it off with a single, and Butler extended his hot start with a one-out RBI double. A UNF fielding error extended the inning with two outs, after which a walk by freshman outfielder Sterlin Thompson loaded the bases. Freshman infielder Colby Halter cleared the bags with a triple and gave the Gators a 5-1 lead.

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UNF plated two in the bottom of the fifth, but the Gators pushed three across in the seventh, with Young smacking a double for an RBI and an 8-3 lead.

Florida added one in the ninth on an RBI single by third-year sophomore Jud Fabian, then held off a rally from UNF in the bottom half.

Young’s single to open the game extended his hitting streak to 22 games, moving him closer to the longest hitting streak of the Kevin O’Sullivan era (24 games by Jonathan India in 2018). The school record is 21 years old and held by Tim Olson (29 games).

Butler, who had a hit in his only at bat, drew two walks and had the aforementioned sacrifice fly, picked up the win on the mound after three innings. The Tampa, Fla., product held UNF to two runs on three hits. Third-year sophomore Ben Specht picked up a save for throwing the final four innings.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Garrett Milchin. In his first appearance since June 23, 2017 against TCU in the College World Series, Milchin threw two innings and only allowed an unearned run, three hits, and a walk while striking out three.

For more on Milchin’s comeback, follow this link to a story by FloridaGators.com Senior Writer Scott Carter, and this link to a story by Gators Territory’s Nick De La Torre.

STANDOUT STAT: 4 – runs batted in by Halter, the most by a Gators hitter in a game this year. The Jacksonville, Fla., native finished with three hits in his five at bats, including the bases-clearing triple and a beautiful bunt single down the third base line.

FROM COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN
On the night overall…
“Nathan Hickey had a couple hits, and I just think they came out a little slow and it’s unfortunate we couldn’t play good enough defense behind Garrett, try and get 3 innings out of him – we had an error in the second, error in the first on a throw. We just did enough offensively, we need to find someone who’s going to be able to close it out in the end – got a little interesting there. Had a couple leadoff walks again, we had a comfortable lead, so we still have some things to work on, but it was important to get a win on the road here and obviously be back home against North Florida again tomorrow.”

UP NEXT: Florida and North Florida will square off again Wednesday, this time at Florida Ballpark. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m., with game coverage available via radio (ESPN 98.1FM/850AM WRUF).