UF Baseball: No. 14 Gators Take Down No. 2 Vanderbilt to Even Series
Courtesy of University Athletic Association
BY SULLIVAN BORTNER
No. 14 Florida baseball plated multiple runs in five of the first six innings and mashed a season-high four home runs to take down No. 2 Vanderbilt and even the series with an 11-8 win in game two. The victory marks the Gators’ (29-13, 12-8) highest-ranked win and fourth win against a top-five opponent this season.
Florida’s three-four-five trio of Jud Fabian, Kris Armstrong, and Kirby McMullen combined for four home runs and seven RBI in the game to lead the Gators to victory. Fabian did the bulk of the damage, producing the second two-homer game of the 2021 campaign and the third of his career to pace the team with four RBI on the night.
Despite falling behind 1-0 in the top half of the first, the Gators quickly responded, as Fabian launched a three-run home run in the bottom half to put Florida ahead, 3-1. Vanderbilt (32-8, 14-6) then plated three unanswered runs in the second and third to retake the lead, but Fabian knotted the game up at four runs apiece with a solo shot to left in the bottom of the third. Kirby McMullen followed with a solo home run to left of his own to put the Gators back in front, 5-4.
In a game with six lead changes, the Commodores inched back in front in the fourth on a Maxwell Romero Jr. two-run home run to right field. Behind 6-5, the Gators flipped the switch in the bottom half of the inning as Nathan Hickey reached on a fielding error, bringing in both Josh Rivera and Colby Halter.
On top 7-6 entering the fifth, Florida extended their advantage on a two-out, RBI single to right field off the bat of Rivera. The Florida shortstop later came in to score as Jacob Young reached on a fielding error at second base to extend the Gator lead to 9-6. In the bottom of the sixth, Armstrong made it an 11-6 ballgame by sending the first pitch he saw deep over the left field wall for a two-run shot.
Vanderbilt plated one run in the eighth and another in the ninth but was ultimately unable to come back as the Gators evened the series with a signature 11-8 win.
After giving up six runs across the first four innings, Florida starter Tommy Mace settled in to provide eight innings of work for the Gators. Mace registered three consecutive scoreless frames from the fifth through the seventh innings, ultimately exiting prior to the start of the ninth. The Gator right-hander earned the victory, allowing seven runs (six earned) on ten hits, walking none, and striking out seven.
Vanderbilt starting pitcher Jack Leiter received the loss, pitching four innings and allowing seven runs (five earned) on five hits and four walks while striking out four.
* Florida’s four home runs marked a season high. The last time the Gators went deep four times in one game came on Feb. 16, 2020 against Marshall.
* With 11 hits in game two, Florida has now collected double-digit knocks in eight of their last nine games.
* Saturday’s win represents Florida’s fourth top-five win of the season, with Vanderbilt being the highest-ranked team the Gators have taken down so far in 2021.
* Fabian’s two-homer game marked his second of the season and third overall in his career.
FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN
On Tommy Mace’s performance…
“That was the gutsiest performance by Tommy Mace that I can remember. He gave up six over the first four and a couple of rebound innings, but the way he settled in after the fourth inning was nothing short of remarkable. He battled. He made pitches. As the game went on, he got better. I think his sinker and slider in the middle innings were as good as they’ve been all year long… He was just outstanding tonight.”
On the turnaround from game one to game two…
“The pace of the game last night was entirely different than it was tonight. You could feel it. You could see it in the dugout. Guys had energy. Credit goes to Tommy… He did what he needed to do. Offensively, Jud [Fabian] is seeing the ball as good as he’s seen it all year long. Kirby [McMullen] had a big home run. Kris [Armstrong] has had two big nights for us. We’ve got a lot of production from the bottom half of the order. Josh Rivera continues to swing the bat really well. All in all, it was a really good game against one of the best teams in the country. We have an opportunity to win a series tomorrow. Hopefully, we grab some of the experiences that we learned tonight and move into tomorrow and play just as well tomorrow.”
UP NEXT: Florida and Vanderbilt face off for the third and final game of the series on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. The game will air on ESPN2 and will be available on radio via WRUF 850 AM/98.1 FM in Gainesville, 1010XL in Jacksonville and on any mobile device via the TuneIn app (search for the “Florida Baseball” station).