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UF Baseball: No. 5 Florida Clinches Series with 5-2 Win

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SKIP POWERS

Kirby McMullen launches third home run of the series

The No.5-ranked Florida baseball team secured its third straight series win as the Gators downed Jacksonville, 5-2, Sunday afternoon at Florida Ballpark/McKethan Field.

Florida (13-4) put the pressure on Jacksonville early, scoring two runs in the first. Third-year sophomore Jacob Young opened the game with a double to center and then promptly scored on an error when second-year freshman Nathan Hickey singled to short and forced the errant throw. Third baseman Kirby McMullen then singled Hickey home on a single to center.

After the Dolphins evened the score in the third, the Gators tacked on two more to take a 4-2 advantage in the fifth. Freshman Mac Guscette avoided the tag at home plate to score on a Hickey sac-fly. McMullen then recorded his fourth home run of the week and third of the series when he cleared the wall in left.

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Fourth-year junior Jordan Butler capped off the scoring for the Gators, ripping his first home run of the season in the eighth inning.

Young paced the Gators with two doubles, moving his season total to a team-high 10, while McMullen drove in two and tallied two hits.

Second-year freshman pitcher Hunter Barco (2-1) scattered seven hits over 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs while striking out seven. Third-year sophomore Franco Aleman allowed just one hit and struck out three in 2 2/3 innings of relief.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Barco. The southpaw has now won back-to-back starts, allowing just two runs over that span, striking out 16 in 11.1 innings.

STANDOUT STAT: 3 – McMullen has homered in three straight games and four of the last five. On the series, the third baseman hit .385, leading the team with five hits and five RBI.

FROM COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN

On Hunter Barco…
“His numbers don’t really indicate how well he’s throwing. Today was probably his best start. I thought he was really sharp and other than botching the bunt play and a four-pitch walk to start the sixth after we scored a couple, he was really sharp. He was really good.”

On Kirby McMullen…
“I think he had a home run in each game this weekend. He’s seeing, obviously, very well. He hit in the middle of the order, starting last year after waiting his turn for three years and there’s a reason why he did. Obviously, I’m really happy and pleased for him. It’s a great story because he kind of waited his turn, he’s always been a great teammate. Not a good teammate, a great teammate. Obviously, his hard work is paying off now.”

On how McMullen changes the dynamic of the lineup…
“I think anytime you take out a three/four hitter – anybody really in the top few – it definitely changes the dynamic of your lineup. We just moved everybody up and felt like (Mac) Guscette had caught well yesterday. It was good. It was a really good game all the way around.”

On Franco Aleman…
“It was really good to stretch out Franco (Aleman). I think we need to get more out of him. We haven’t used him well enough and that falls on me. I have to get him out there more and instead of using him as a traditional three-out closer, we need to extend him. I think he threw 22 pitches – 17 strikes. Obviously, this is the best outing for him this year, as well.”

NEXT TIME OUT: Florida will head to Tallahassee to face Florida State on Tuesday, March 16. The ACC Network will carry the game with first pitch slated for 6 p.m.