Gators walk off against Jacksonville
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 1:19 a.m.
Sophomore Connor Mitchell's clutch two-out, RBI single capped a two-run ninth inning for Florida as the Gators rallied for a 7-6 win over visiting Jacksonville on Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium before a crowd of 2,395.
“I've never had one before, not even in little league or anything,” said Mitchell, who had only one previous official at-bat this season and entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch runner.
“I figured the first pitch was probably going to be a fastball and might be the only one I see, so I was swinging.”
With the win, the Gators have now won a season-high four games in a row to even their record at 7-7 while the Dolphins slipped to 4-9.
“We needed a walk-off win,” head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “It came down to a guy that's had one at-bat all year long, and he put a good swing on the ball. I feel really, really happy for him.”
A two-out, RBI single in the top of the ninth inning by Jacksonville's Drew Luther had given the Dolphins a 6-5 lead in what was a back-and-forth battle.
JU reliever Drew Woods, the last of four JU pitchers, gave up an infield hit to UF's Justin Shafer leading off the bottom of the ninth and then hit Zack Powers to put two men on. Taylor Gushue moved both runners up with a sacrifice bunt, leading up to a strange ending.
After an intentional walk to senior Vickash Ramjit, Josh Tobias hit a high fly to left field that was caught for a moment by left fielder Nathan Koslowski.
But as Shafer, who was on third, bluffed to come home, Koslowski lost the handle on the ball, with Shafer crossing the plate with the tying run.
Powers ended up getting hung up between second and third on the eventual throw and was tagged out, appearing to be an inning-ending double play. But after some discussion, the umpires ruled Koslowski dropped the ball before recording the out, with Ramjit reaching second.
Mitchell then stepped up and delivered his first-pitch, game-winner to give the Gators their first one-run win of the season after losing their first four one-run decisions.
Sophomore reliever Ryan Harris (2-1), the last of five UF pitchers, earned the win, while Woods (0-1) suffered the loss.
Shafer, who had two doubles, and Ramjit each had three hits to pace a 12-hit UF attack, while Michael Babb had three hits to lead JU.
“It was a great game,” Shafer said. “They're a good ball club and they swung the bats well. It was good for us to have one of those kind of games, and for Connor to come up big right there was awesome.”
There were some issues, particularly the 11 men UF left on base, but not anything as severe as the four errors by the Dolphins that led to four unearned Gator runs and gave JU 30 errors on the season in only 13 games.
UF will host Indiana of the Big Ten for a three-game series this weekend.
“There were some positive things,” O'Sullivan said. “We didn't make any errors and we only walked three guys. We've got some stuff we need to work on, but we'll pull the positives out of this thing and get ready for Indiana.”