Gators walk away with 10-0 win over Herd

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Florida infielder Josh Rivera (24) and outfielder Jud Fabian (4) celebrate a win over Marshall at McKethan Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/For the Gainesville Sun]

A day after a season-opening win where it used timely two-out hits to take the series opener from visiting Marshall, the No. 4 ranked Florida baseball team turned to the walk Saturday afternoon.

The Gators drew 13 free passes and converted those into runs time and time again in a 10-0 triumph over the Thundering Herd to win the series. UF (2-0) will go for the sweep Sunday, with the first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. 

Florida junior righthander Jack Leftwich was stellar in his first start of 2020, striking out eight Marshall (0-2) hitters while allowing just three hits and issuing no walks.

After allowing two hits in the first inning, Leftwich (1-0) really settled in and started snapping off breaking pitches that Herd batters had few answers for.

Even when an error in the top of the fifth inning saw a runner reach third with two outs, the Gators defense had Leftwich’s back as sophomore right fielder Jacob Young ran down the final out on a popup in foul territory to keep Marshall off the scoreboard.

After battling through an ankle injury and blister issues on his pitching hand, Leftwich was pumped to take the mound.

“Yeah, I was really anxious to get out here,” Leftwich said. “I felt good, comfortable and relaxed, so it’s all good.”

Meanwhile, on the offensive side, Marshall’s inability to throw the ball over the plate kept directly leading to Florida runs. The Herd got three great innings from starter Brady Choban (0-1) but the Gators finally broke through in the fourth inning.

Senior Kirby McMullen and sophomore Cory Acton drew leadoff walks, and sophomore Kendrick Calilao drove them both in with a double that was just fair past third base for a 2-0 lead. Calilao later scored on a wild pitch to put the Gators up 3-0.

“I think we took what we were given at the plate today,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “Their starter was really good early on, he’s like an SEC-type guy … but I thought we hung in there.”

Another leadoff walk drawn by sophomore Jud Fabian led to a McMullen double to push the advantage out to 4-0 in the fifth, with true freshman shortstop Josh Rivera then earning a bases-loaded walk later to make it 5-0.

The seventh inning saw Florida blow the game wide open by pushing five more runs across the plate and was highlighted by Fabian’s three-run blast off the scoreboard in right field to extend the Gators’ margin to 10-0. It was Fabian’s first home run of the young season.

UF junior catcher Cal Greenfield had two of the Gators’ eight hits with a run, RBI and walk while second baseman Acton walked four times from his cleanup shot in the lineup.

After Leftwich exited prior to the seventh inning, the rest of the Gators who took the mound also excelled. Sophomore David Luethje, Hunter Barco and Brandon Sproat each tossed a scoreless inning of relief. Barco and Sproat are true freshmen who made their first collegiate appearances.

In all, Florida pitchers gave up just three hits and two walks over the course of the game.

For Sunday’s game, UF sophomore Nick Pogue (1-1, 4.15 ERA in 2019) will face off with Marshall’s Jeffery Purnell.