Gators get third straight walk-off win, sweep Huskies
Published: Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 8:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 8:19 p.m.
For the third straight game, Florida and Connecticut went to extra innings at McKethan Stadium on Sunday afternoon, and for the third straight time, the Gators sent the crowd home happy with a walk-off win.
Illinois State (8-4) at Florida (10-6), 7 p.m. at McKethan Stadium
Casey Turgeon's squeeze bunt with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning scored fellow junior Josh Tobias, who had tripled to lead off the frame, with the game-winner as the Gators (10-6) completed their first series sweep of the season with a thrilling 6-5 win before 3,015 fans.
The victory, UF's third-straight, one-run decision of the weekend, extended the Gators' winning streak to a season-high four games, while the hard-luck Huskies (4-8) lost their fifth straight in a contest in which the teams combined to use 13 pitchers, eight of them by UF.
“They're a good team,” coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “We're really pleased with how we played this weekend and how we fought back.”
Unlike the first two games of the series (1-0 and 2-1 UF wins) where runs were scarce, Sunday's contest was a back-and-forth battle in which each team was in the lead at last twice.
The Huskies put two runs on the board in their first at-bat, but the Gators answered in the bottom of the first with a pair of runs on an RBI double by Turgeon that scored sophomore Richie Martin, who had a lead-off single, and a sacrifice fly by junior Taylor Gushue with one out that scored Turgeon.
UF would eventually take 3-2 and 4-3 leads, but the Huskies put together four hits that led to two runs and a 5-4 lead in the top of the fifth.
UConn carried that one-run lead into the ninth and was two outs away from taking the series finale when Gushue blasted a one-out home run over the left field bleachers to knot the score at 5-all and force extra innings.
“That was a big-time at-bat by a big-time player,” O'Sullivan said.
The Huskies proceeded to load the bases with one out off UF sophomore reliever Eric Hanhold in the top of the 10th, but junior Bobby Poyner came in and got a huge strikeout of the Huskies' Bryan Daniello before retiring pinch-hitter Nico Darras on a fly ball to center to quell the threat.
“In that particular situation, I knew I needed either a strikeout or a ground ball up the middle to turn a double play,” said Poyner. “I had to stay away from contact.”
Tobias led off the bottom of the inning by ripping a 3-2 pitch from UConn reliever Patrick Ruotolo to the base of the fence in left center, sliding safely into third ahead of the relay.
With the infield drawn in, freshman Buddy Reed lined out to second, but Martin drew a walk to bring up Turgeon, who placed a perfect bunt up the first-base line to plate Tobias.
“It was a long game, and we just needed to get that run home,” said Turgeon, who went 3 for 5 with two RBIs to pace an 11-hit UF attack, with Gushue, Tobias and Martin each going 2 for 3.
“We're starting to break out,” said Gushue, who knocked in a game-high three runs. “The bats are getting hot, and the pitchers are absolutely carving up the hitters on the other team. Not enough can be said about our pitching this weekend. It was absolutely unbelievable. Every key situation, they did their job.”
Poyner (3-2) picked up the win, his second in as many games, while Ruotolo (1-2) took the loss.
Florida will host Illinois State (8-4) in a midweek game Wednesday at 7 p.m. before opening SEC play with a three-game home series against Arkansas beginning Friday.