Special to Gatorsports.com
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Florida needed a clutch pitching performance Friday against No. 24 Missouri, which was looking to even the SEC baseball series after losing the opener Thursday to the Gators.
Sophomore Jack Leftwich accomplished the mission for the Gators. Leftwich pitched a complete-game shutout, as Florida (32-23, 12-17 SEC) clinched the series with a 2-0 win over the Tigers.
Leftwich (5-5) was phenomenal, limiting Missouri (34-20-1, 13-15-1) to just two hits while striking out nine. It was the longest outing of his career and first shutout. He retired the first 14 batters he faced.
“It’s been an unfortunate year for him,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He’s dealt with that blister that lasted a lot longer than we expected; then he rolled his ankle in a bullpen session. It’s just been one of those weird years where he hasn’t had the opportunity to be healthy.
“He was really, really good tonight. That’s about as good a performance as I can remember. On the road with a lot at stake. He threw a ton of first-pitch strikes, threw close to 70-percent strikes overall. That’s the best his change-up has looked. I could tell early on in the game when he threw some right-on-right change-ups … that was an unbelievable performance. I can’t say enough about his effort.”
The lone runs in the game came in the fourth inning. Brady McConnell reached base following an error by the third baseman and Austin Langworthy followed with a line drive home run to right field to make it 2-0.
Missouri’s TJ Sikkema (7-4) was almost as good as Leftwich, tossing nine innings with two runs allowed on three hits.
“Overall it was a great game for us,” O’Sullivan said. “It was a well-played game on both sides. When you’re going to beat the other team’s No. 1, especially in this league, you need to have performances like that. Hopefully we’ll come out tomorrow and play just as well and hopefully finish this thing off.”
Florida looks for the sweep at 12 p.m. ET Saturday. Due to impending poor weather on Saturday afternoon, the Gators and Tigers will start the series finale three hours earlier than originally scheduled.