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UF Baseball: Nunez Walks It Off as Gators Remain Undefeated

Isaac Nunez (center with helmet on) was mobbed by his teammates after smacking the game-winning single.
Photo by Tim Casey

Press release from UF Athletic Association

Freshman Isaac Nunez’s first collegiate hit is sure to be one he and his father, Roman Nunez, will never forget.

The Orlando, Fla., native, who entered the game in the ninth inning as a defensive substitute, came to the plate in the 10th inning of Wednesday night’s game against Jacksonville without a hit in any of his three previous plate appearances this season. With the winning run on second, two outs, and two strikes against him, Nunez sent a shot into the gap in right center field and brought junior catcher Cal Greenfield across home plate, securing a 4-3 victory for the Gators.

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“It’s a moment he won’t forget,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Glad his dad was here to see it.”

“It was so surreal,” Nunez said. “My initial first reaction – when I hit first base and I saw Cal score – was looking for my dad. My dad has been one of the biggest influences of my life. I saw him, he’s pointing at me, I’m pointing back at him. We made eye contact, and it’s a great moment. We know how hard we worked together. Not just me. Not just him. Together. It’s a very special moment for me.”

Florida improved to 5-0 on the season, while Jacksonville fell to 1-4. The Gators have 51 runs through their five games, which is the third-highest total in Coach O’Sullivan’s tenure. Only the 2008 Gators (58) and 2015 Gators (54) reached 50 runs in the first five games.

The Dolphins jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, but the Gators fought back with a run in the second, third, fifth, and then the game-winner in the 10th to earn the comeback victory.

After consecutive one-out singles from sophomore Kendrick Calilao and freshman catcher Nathan Hickey in the second, junior infielder Brady Smith made it 3-1 with a sacrifice fly. The run in the third inning came from Fabian, who led off the inning with a double and eventually scored after a single by senior Austin Langworthy and a wild pitch. Fabian also delivered the game-tying run with a rocket of a home run in the fifth.

Florida’s bullpen escaped a handful of jams, none bigger than a two-on, no-out scenario in the sixth, when sophomore David Luethje induced a double play and fanned the next batter to end the inning. In the seventh, sophomore Ben Specht cleaned up a leadoff double allowed by Luethje, inducing a flyout and a groundout to end the frame.

Specht went on to record a line of 2.2 innings pitched, zero hits, zero runs, two strikeouts, and two walks. It was sophomore Nick Pogue who earned the win, though, as he took over for Specht and struck out two as part of a scoreless 10th inning.

STANDOUT STAT: .067 (one of 15) – Jacksonville’s batting average with runners in scoring position. Florida’s bullpen was tremendous all night, with the five relievers – freshmen Ryan Cabarcas and Tyler Nesbitt, and the sophomore trio of Luethje, Pogue, and Specht – combined for 7.2 scoreless innings. The group allowed just four hits and struck out eight – three of which came with the potential go-ahead run in scoring position.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Nunez, as if it could possibly be anyone else. Read those quotes again. What a moment for the freshman and his father.

FROM COACH KEVIN O’SULLIVAN:

On what he told the team in the dugout trailing 3-0 after the first… “Nothing. We fell behind on Sunday, and we learned a lesson there. Our guys, we feel good about our offense. And I thought our pitching was good after the first inning. Had some freshmen make some big pitches when they needed to. (Tyler) Nesbitt came in and threw strikes, (Ryan) Cabarcas came in and got some big outs. It’s good to get Ben Specht out there. Really, really pleased with how Nick Pogue threw the ball at the end, after that start on Sunday. And David Luethje came in and got a big double play.”

On the offense tonight… “Jud (Fabian) had another big night with two hits and a home run. (Nathan) Hickey got on base four times. Had a chance to start some other guys, and we faced some really good arms tonight. I knew the starter they were going to throw, he was a weekend guy for them last year. I knew how challenging this was going to be. Just pleased with how we stayed in the game.”

SERIES UPDATES: Florida improves to 61-33 overall against Jacksonville, and it improves to 38-14 against the Dolphins in Gainesville. The Gators have won each of the last six games in the series.

UP NEXT: Florida heads to Coral Gables, Fla., for a three-game weekend series against No. 1 Miami. The Gators are expected to send juniors Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich to the hill Friday and Saturday night, respectively. Those games are slated for 7 p.m. starts. Sunday’s game is scheduled for 1 p.m.

All three games will stream live via ACC Network Extra.