Gators get big win over rival Seminoles

Florida's Harrison Bader (8) rounds second base after hitting an RBI triple during the Gators' 3-1 win over Florida State at McKethan Stadium on Tuesday.

Brad McClenny / Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 11:46 p.m.

A season-high crowd of 5,657 turned out for Tuesday night's in-state battle between Florida State and Florida, and the Gators responded with a big 3-1 win over the No. 2 Seminoles at McKethan Stadium.

Sophomore Harrison Bader, playing in just his second game of the season, stroked a one-out, RBI triple to the base of the right-field fence in the bottom of the sixth inning to score Richie Martin, who led off with a double, to break a 1-1 tie and later scored on Taylor Gushue's sacrifice fly to give Florida a 3-1 lead that held up to the end.

“It was obviously a big situation, so you're just trying not to do too much, just barrel the ball up,” Bader said. “I just tried to put a good swing on it.”

UF pitching did the rest as starter Danny Young and relievers Aaron Rhodes and Bobby Poyner each went three innings and combined to hold the Seminoles, who had scored a whopping 59 runs in their six-game winning streak coming in, to just one run.

“It was a really good college baseball game,” coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. “I can't say enough about our pitchers against a really, really good lineup. They don't chase out of the zone. You have to continually make pitches, and you have to stay on top of your game.”

The win, the eighth in the last nine games for Florida, improved the Gators to 14-7 on the season while FSU, which had just moved into the No. 1 spot in several other polls, slipped to 17-3.

The Seminoles had several good scoring chances early but could not capitalize, and the missed chances came back to haunt them.

None was bigger than in the top of the third when they loaded the bases with nobody out off Young with the meat of their lineup due up, but did not score.

Young got DJ Stewart on a foul pop to third baseman Josh Tobias, struck out Brett Knief looking and then retired John Nogowski on a grounder behind the bag at third that Tobias fielded and made a strong throw to first to record the out as the UF dugout erupted.

Tobias then led off the bottom of the inning by ripping the first pitch he saw from FSU starter Peter Miller into the left-field bleachers for his first home run of the season and a 1-0 Florida lead.

“It's not like he (Young) was facing the bottom of the order,” O'Sullivan said. “He's got to go through 3-4-5, and I think that was a huge momentum swing for us.”

The lead held up until the FSU sixth when Seminoles' third baseman Jose Brizuela, who had three hits on the night, belted a one-out, solo homer, his first of the year, to make it 1-1.

But the stalemate was short-lived as the Gators retook the lead for good in the bottom of the inning, keyed by Bader's game-winning hit.

Rhodes (2-0) picked up the victory, while Poyner earned his first career save by retiring all nine hitters he faced.

FSU's Miller (1-1) took the loss.

“It was great,” Poyner said. “I think it's great for the confidence of our club, and everybody feels very good about how we're playing.”

Next up, the Gators (2-1 SEC) make their first league road trip of the season to face Texas A&M (14-7, 1-2) in a three-game set this weekend that begins Friday at 7:30 p.m.

It will be the first series as conference opponents for the two teams, who did not meet in the 2013 regular season. The Aggies did, however, defeat the Gators last year in an SEC Tournament matchup.

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