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UF Baseball: Gators Overcome Slow Start Against Troy, Remain Undefeated

Austin Langworthy (left) had a three-hit night and scored the winning run.
Photo by Alexis Greaves

Courtesy of UF Athletic Association

Florida started slow and fell behind, but the top-ranked Gators got another ace-like outing from junior Tommy Mace, fiery pitching from their bullpen, and a three-run seventh inning to come away with a 3-2 victory over Troy Friday night. Florida is now 9-0 for the fourth time in school history.

Although Mace surrendered runs in the first and third innings, he worked well out of the stretch and did not issue a walk in his seven innings on the mound. The Tampa, Fla., native registered six strikeouts and earned the win, his second of the season, following the Gators’ three runs in the bottom of the seventh.

Florida’s three-run inning began with a one-out single from freshman shortstop Josh Rivera, followed by a walk from pinch hitter Nathan Hickey. After a harmless flyout to left, senior outfielder Austin Langworthy singled to center to plate the first run, and an error moved both Langworthy and Hickey into scoring position for senior infielder Kirby McMullen.

McMullen drove them in with a single over the head of Troy’s shortstop.

Langworthy finished the game with three hits, a run, and an RBI, rebounding from a rocky weekend in Miami. Sophomore outfielder Jacob Young was the only other UF hitter with multiple hits, going 2-for-3 to extend his hot streak.

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Sophomores Nick Pogue and Ben Specht finished the game off for the Gators, delivering three strikeouts apiece in their respective innings. Specht earned the second save of his career, with his previous save coming in a May 7 win over South Florida last year.

STANDOUT STAT: 43.1 – percentage of Florida’s RBIs that have come with two outs this season. Florida has 25 two-out RBIs – including all three it registered Friday night – and a total of 58 RBIs on the season.

Florida’s bullpen as a whole has been stellar thus far, as it boasts a 1.70 earned run average (six runs allowed) across 31.2 innings. Gators relievers also have 34 strikeouts against 12 walks this season.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Pogue and Specht. Since a rough start in the Sunday game of Florida’s opening series against Marshall, Pogue has been on fire, holding opponents scoreless in each of his last four outings and allowing just three hits and two walks while picking up a win (against Jacksonville last Wednesday) and a save (last Friday at then-No. 1 Miami).

Specht continues to be an effective reliever for the Gators as well, allowing just one earned run on four hits and striking out nine in his 8.1 innings this year.

The duo lowered Florida’s bullpen earned run average to 2.18, across 41.1 innings, with their performances Friday night.

FROM COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN:

On the win and Mace’s performance… “Tommy battled. I don’t think he had his best stuff tonight. It’s unfortunate for him, that’s three starts in a row for him we haven’t had Florida weather behind him. Hopefully next week he can get some Florida weather to pitch in. He hung in there and battled. Didn’t walk anybody, which is a big thing for tonight. Usually when you don’t have your best stuff, you have to throw strikes. That’s exactly what he did. Made some big pitches when he needed to.”

On the bullpen performances… “[Pogue and Specht] have made the jump we’re hoping they would make. It’s really fun to see how some of these young pitchers and position players one year to the next have some adjustments and started to grow and mature. Both those guys did really well tonight.”

On whether he was happy with the way the team played tonight…

“To be honest with you, we didn’t come ready to play. In the top of the first, we’re taking ground balls from the first baseman, and one of our infielders short-hops our first baseman; the ball kicks off his glove. A couple of plays later, we kick a ball, I’ve only ever seen that one other time in my career, where an infielder has kicked a ball rolled [to him] from the first baseman. We were out of position on a double play with Cory [Acton]. It happened against JU [too], even though it’s a hard-hit ball.

“The popup, not one person on our field pointed up. We talk about it all the time. It’s a tough sky, but it’s our home field. It’s not like we don’t practice that. Not one guy in the infield pointed up. Maybe if someone points, maybe Langworthy gets a better look at the ball, maybe Jud gets a better look at the ball, but nobody says anything, and then they’re complaining about it being a high sky. Well, yeah. We know that at that time of the night, it’s always a high sky at our field.

“We just weren’t ready to play. We had a cross-up between the pitcher and the catcher, ball to the backstop, two runners move into scoring position. I was not pleased with how we started the game, to be honest with you. We were very fortunate to win the game. It’s easy to get on your team when you lose a game, but we’ve gotta learn as a team that these ranking mean nothing this time of year.

“We talked about this. If we think we’re just going to roll the balls out there and throw the gloves out there and beat anybody because we’re the Gators, I mean, that’s nonsense. We had a good weekend down in Miami. That has nothing to do with tonight or this weekend. It has nothing to do when we start conference play against Georgia. We’ve gotta be mature with where we’re at because we’re not a finished product.

“Offensively, we’re not where we were at the start of the season. Pitching-wise, we’ve still got a lot of question marks. Defensively, we have some lapses mentally. That falls on me. I’ve gotta get these guys to play night in and night out. Not that we’re going to win every game, but when your team doesn’t play good defense or they don’t do the things that you practice like yelling and pointing at pop-ups, and you have a cross-up between pitcher and catcher, those things are not good. That’s a telltale sign that teams are not ready to play. We were fortunate to win.”

[Credit to Nick de la Torre for the transcript.]

UP NEXT: Florida chases the fourth 10-0 start in school history and the first since 2002, when it opened the season 11-0. UF also started the 1989 season 11-0. First pitch for Saturday’s rematch with Troy is slated for 4 p.m.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Saturday | 4 p.m. (SECN+)

Sunday | 1 p.m. (SECN+)

Florida

RHP Jack Leftwich (1-0)

LHP Hunter Barco (1-0)

Troy

RHP Orlando Ortiz (1-0)

RHP Tyson Ellis (0-0)

PROMOTIONS

Saturday, February 29th vs. Troy

  *   Final Season Sign – Stop by the final season sign located next to the Gators Sports Shop on the concourse and take a photo!
  *   Kid’s Korner – Come check out the newest additions to Kid’s Korner, located on the first base side of the concourse. Kids (12 and under) have a chance to walk away with a prize.
  *   Foul Ball for Queso – If a fan catches a clean foul ball out of the air with no deflections, everyone in attendance will win free queso!
  *   Section Wars – Two sections will compete against each other for the chance to win a prize courtesy of Domino’s.
  *   Military and First Responders – All military members and first responders, active and retired, may purchase half-priced GA tickets.
  *   Seniors – All senior citizens, ages 55 and older, may purchase half-priced general admission tickets while supplies last.

Sunday, March 1st vs. Troy

  *   Giveaway – Youth lunchbox giveaway for the first 250 kids (12 and under) in attendance.
  *   Community Anthem – Kids (12 and under) can stand on the field next to their favorite Gators during the National Anthem! Sign-ups for this are on the third base side in autograph alley, beginning at 12 p.m. Sign-ups end at 12:30 p.m.
  *   Kids Circle The Bases – Kids (12 and under) can circle the bases following the game! Sign-ups for this are on the third base side in autograph alley, beginning in the 8th inning.
  *   Final Season Sign – Stop by the final season sign located next to the Gators Sports Shop on the concourse and take a photo!
  *   Kid’s Korner – Come check out the newest additions to Kid’s Korner, located on the first base side of the concourse. Kids (12 and under) have a chance to walk away with a prize.
  *   Foul Ball for Queso – If a fan catches a clean foul ball out of the air with no deflections, everyone in attendance will win free queso!
  *   Dollar Sundays – Fans may purchase general admission tickets for only $1!