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UF Baseball: No. 6 Florida Sweeps Florida A&M on Friday

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SKIP POWERS

The No. 6 Gators swept their doubleheader against Florida A&M on Friday at Florida Ballpark/McKethan Field. Florida took game one, 10-2, and then followed up with a 5-1 victory in the nightcap.

The Gators combined for 23 hits and used a four-run inning in each contest to secure the series victory.

Third-year sophomore outfielder Jacob Young tallied four hits over the course of the two games to push his hitting streak to 29 games and equal Tim Olson’s 21-year-old record. Young recorded two hits in each game to move his multi-hit-game total on the season to a team-best seven.

The Florida arms of fourth-year juniors Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich combined to go 15 innings and allowed just four hits apiece.

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Game 1

Florida opened the doubleheader with a 10-2 victory on the strength of a season-high 15 hits. Five Gators collected multi-hits, led by a 3-for-5 effort from freshman third baseman Colby Halter.

Florida scored in five of the first six frames, plating two runs in the fifth to take a 5-1 lead. Sophomore second baseman Cory Acton drove in senior Kirby McMullen and freshman right fielder Sterlin Thompson with a liner to left. McMullen led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch, and then Thompson doubled down the left field line to set up the scoring.

The Gators broke the game open in the eighth inning when Halter cleared the bases with a two-out grand slam that sailed over the scoreboard in right to push the score to the eventual final ledger of 10-2. Second-year freshman catcher Nathan Hickey started the inning with a lead-off walk and was followed by a Jordan Butler single to center. Thompson then loaded the bases by getting hit by a pitch.

Seven different Gators scored in the contest, led by Thompson’s three runs. Thompson, Young, third-year sophomore Jud Fabian, and fourth-year junior Jordan Butler registered two hits apiece.

Mace improved to 3-0 after allowing two runs on four hits, striking out five while walking none in seven innings.

Game 2

Florida used a four-run third inning and added another to give Leftwich all the support he would need. The right-hander struck out a season-high eight and allowed one run on four hits in eight innings of work.

Seven straight Gators reached base in the four-run third inning to spark the scoring. Thompson started it off by bringing in Butler on a single to left. Halter promptly brought in Hickey with a single to right, and after a fielder’s choice off the bat of Cory Acton that plated Butler, freshman catcher Mac Guscette ripped a two-out single to center to score Thompson.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Halter. The newcomer boasted his best performance of his young career as the infielder drove in five runs in the doubleheader, including his first grand slam in game one. The Jacksonville product has been on a tear as of late, driving in nine runs in his last four games while raising his batting average 73 points over that span.

STANDOUT STAT: 15 – The 1-2 punch of starters Mace and Leftwich put the Gators in great position for the finale as the duo combined to throw 15 innings. The Florida bullpen was only taxed for 38 pitches in three innings of work. Both hurlers recorded season-highs in innings pitched.

FROM COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN

On Tommy Mace and the batting effort in the first game…
“Yeah, I mean, I don’t think Tommy was quite as sharp as he was last weekend. He threw some balls in the middle of the plate, fastball was up a little bit more today. He wasn’t quite as sharp, but he battled and gave us what he needed to give us to give us a chance to win. Obviously, Franco (Aleman) came in there at the end, and that ninth inning was the best inning that’s he’s thrown all year long. He keeps making strides forward, and I’m really pleased with where he’s starting to pitch like we know he can. You know, offensively – obviously Colby (Halter) had the grand slam there in the eighth to kind of separate us a little bit more.

On Florida A&M…
“I should’ve said this to begin with – it was really clean baseball. I’m really, really impressed with the way they played defense. It was clean, it was probably the biggest improvement I’ve seen in their program is their ability to catch the ball. It’s really clean. Their pitchers do a really nice job of holding runners, they have the ability to throw off-speed pitches behind in the count… I commend Jamey (Shouppe) and his staff. They came ready to play, and as far as the second game is concerned, that’s the best Jack (Leftwich) has thrown. It was obvious the way they were very aggressive at the plate. They put some good swings on Jack early in the game, and I was a little taken aback by it because I thought Jack was throwing the ball really, really well. In the second game, we probably hit too many fly balls. The wind was blowing in a little bit, but with that being said, maybe a couple of balls on a normal day may have gotten out. Like I said, it was a clean baseball game.

On the message to the team…
“We talked to the players before we played the first game and you know, you can’t take anything for granted. We have to come out and play. We have the conference starting in two weeks. We have to play crisper; the dugout has to be better. We have to have more energy, and we need to learn from Wednesday night.”

UP NEXT: Florida looks to sweep Florida A&M Sunday, March 7, as second-year freshman Hunter Barco takes the hill. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. and will be live-streamed via SECNetwork + and the ESPN app. ESPN 98.1FM/850AM WRUF will provide the radio coverage.

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