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UF Baseball: Gators Take Series Opener Behind Mace’s Career Night

Tommy Mace’s 11 strikeouts were the most by a Gators pitcher since the 2018 College World Series.

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY ZACH DIRLAM

A dominant performance by fourth-year junior starting pitcher Tommy Mace and yet another explosive night offensively made it three wins in a row for the No. 7 Gators, who defeated Samford, 8-4, Friday night at Florida Ballpark / McKethan Field.

Florida opened the scoring with a two-out rally in the bottom of the second. Freshman outfielder Sterlin Thompson walked, the next two Gators reached via errors, and freshman infielder Jordan Carrion looped a single into right field and brought two runs across.

Third-year sophomore outfielder Jud Fabian led off the third with a solo shot onto the left field berm, marking his third home run in the last two games.

The Gators plated three in the fourth with an RBI triple from third-year sophomore infielder Kris Armstrong, an RBI single by freshman infielder Colby Halter, and an RBI double by third-year sophomore Jacob Young. The double by Young extended his hitting streak to 24 games, tying Jonathan India (2018) for the longest hitting streak of the Kevin O’Sullivan era.

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Florida’s last two runs of the night came in the fifth. Fourth-year junior utility player Jordan Butler led it off with a single, then Thompson sent a one-out liner into right field for a triple, as well as a run of his own after a throwing error on the outfield relay.

Mace improved to 2-0 on the year and has won his last five decisions. The Tampa, Fla., native threw 100 pitches across six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, issuing zero walks, and racking up a career-high 11 strikeouts.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Thompson. The freshman has a hit in all five games he’s played in this season, with Friday being the first multi-hit game of his career. Thompson finished the night with two hits in his two at bats, plus a walk and three runs scored.

STANDOUT STAT: 11 – strikeouts by Mace. Not only did Mace eclipse his previous career high of nine strikeouts (set against Vanderbilt and LSU in 2019), his 11 strikeouts were the most by a Gators pitcher in a game since Jackson Kowar fanned 13 against Texas in the 2018 College World Series.

FROM COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN

On Tommy Mace’s performance…
“He was really sharp. He came out and commanded the outer half of the plate. His misses were small. He pitched. I thought he was outstanding. We kind of challenged them this week to get back to what we think they are and, obviously, he responded tonight and set the tone for the weekend.”

On the performances by the three freshmen position players tonight…
“I thought all three freshmen played really good tonight. Especially Sterlin [Thompson] left on left. Colby Halter had some really good at bats against a tough lefty. Jordan [Carrion] had the two-out RBI to right center field. Thought he ran the bases really well as well. All three of those guys had really good nights against a tough lefty.”

On his overall assessment of the game…
“All in all, it was a clean game. I thought Tommy was great. I thought Brandon Sproat was good. Just got the one ball up for the home run, and just pulled one breaking ball with the runner at third. I guess the only negative is we’ve gotta stop giving up runs late in the game. We’ve got a six-run lead, and we’re walking guys that are coming off the bench. We need to attack. It’s just that simple. We had a comebacker that was fairly routine, and we threw the ball into center field. Next thing you know, you’ve got a four-run lead and the tying run is in the hole. These things can’t happen. It’s just disappointing we weren’t able to finish the game on a clean note.”

UP NEXT: Florida looks to take the series from Samford Saturday, as fourth-year junior Jack Leftwich takes the hill. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m., with SECNetwork+ providing live streaming, and ESPN 98.1FM/850AM WRUF providing radio coverage.

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