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UF Baseball: No. 9 Gators Tie Season High with 16 Strikeouts in Game One Win Over Georgia

Photo by Anissa Dimilta

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY SULLIVAN BORTNER

No. 9 Florida struck out 16 Bulldog batters en route to a 4-3 comeback victory in game one against Georgia on Friday night.

Late-game heroics in the series opener were provided by infielder Josh Rivera, who singled home the winning run in the bottom of the eighth with two outs and a 1-2 count.

Making the Friday night start for the Gators, staff ace Tommy Mace had his arsenal working early, as evidenced by two strikeouts in the first to register a scoreless frame. Mace then proceeded to churn out a clean inning in the second, highlighted by two more strikeouts to bring his total to four through two innings of work.

With the game knotted at zero going into the bottom of the second, Kendrick Calilao opened the scoring in impressive fashion. On a 2-0 offering, Calilao launched a deep solo home run in straightaway center field to make it a 1-0 game.

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The Bulldogs answered back in the top of the third, plating a pair of runs on a Josh McAllister RBI single and subsequent Garrett Blaylock sacrifice fly to center field. The 2-1 Georgia lead was short-lived, however, as Sterlin Thompson led off the home half of the third with a double into the left-center gap and later came in to score on an RBI groundout off the bat of Jacob Young.

After Georgia regained the lead on a Connor Tate RBI single in the fifth, Young brought the game back even by delivering another run with an RBI double to left-center, effectively scoring Cory Acton. Both teams put up zeros in the sixth and seventh, as Trey Van Der Weide relieved Mace with two outs in the latter inning and recorded a crucial strikeout to keep the game square at three runs apiece.

In the top of the eighth, Jack Leftwich entered the game on the mound for the Gators and produced a clean frame highlighted by two strikeouts. Leftwich’s zero opened the door for Florida to score the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth, provided by Rivera in the form of a clutch, two-out single to left field that brought home the winning run in the form of Kris Armstrong.

With the 4-3 advantage, Leftwich returned to the mound in the ninth. The Gator right-hander struck out three Georgia batters as he secured his seventh win of the season and clinched the series opener for Florida.

In addition to earning the victory, Leftwich finished with two innings pitched, allowing two hits and striking out five. Overall, relievers Van Der Weide and Leftwich combined to strike out six of the nine batters they faced in game one.

Mace registered his fourth quality start of the season in the win, firing 6.2 innings of three-run ball on seven hits and two walks while striking out 10 batters on the night.

Georgia starting pitcher Liam Sullivan lasted five innings on the hill, allowing three earned runs on six hits with seven strikeouts. Bulldog reliever Ben Harris was saddled with the loss, throwing two innings and allowing one run on two hits and one walk with three strikeouts.

Calilao (2-for-3) and Acton (2-for-2) both turned in multi-hit nights, with the former driving in one and scoring one run while Acton scored one run of his own as well.

NOTABLES

  *   Mace, Van Der Weide, and Leftwich combined to strike out 16 batters, which tied Florida’s season high. Pitching in relief, Van Der Weide and Leftwich struck out six of the nine batters they faced.
  *   The Gators improve to 16-2 over their last 18 home games, including wins in 10 of their last 11 at Florida Ballpark.
  *   Florida has now won 14 of their last 18 games overall.

FROM HEAD COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN

On Tommy Mace’s performance on Friday night…
“I thought he threw the ball really well. Probably as good as he’s thrown it all year long. He battled, and Georgia is really good. You saw just a glimpse of some of their pitchers that they threw out there tonight, so it was a quality win for us.”

On whether or not the team is paying attention to results around the conference…
“It’s that time of year where you’re obviously interested in scores, but at the end of the day, the only concern we can have is really about ourselves. If we play the way we’re capable of, then we’ll put ourselves in a really good position regardless of what other teams do. Our focus needs to be on us and us only.”

On what he has seen from Leftwich in the relief role…
“He’s just really confident right now. He’s executing pitches at a high level. I think earlier in the year, in a situation like that, he may have been a little bit too fast. But he’s slowing the game down. It’s obvious he’s having a lot of fun. Just really, really pleased with how he’s been able to solidify the bullpen at the back end.”

UP NEXT
Florida and Georgia meet again for game two of the series at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday with coverage on SEC Network+. Fans can also tune in 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).

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