By Walter Villa
CORAL GABLES — In two games against the Miami Hurricanes this weekend, two Florida freshman relievers — Jack Leftwich and Tommy Mace — have combined to pitch seven hitless and scoreless innings.
“They’re making me and (Friday starter) Brady (Singer) look bad,” joked Jackson Kowar, who started for Florida in the No. 1 Gators’ 8-2 win on Saturday night.
Kowar (2-0), who is a projected top-five MLB pick this June, just like Singer, allowed five hits, three walks and two runs in six innings. He threw 95 pitches and struck out three.
Leftwich followed, pitching three perfect innings for his first save. He struck out six and earned the respect of many Gators veterans, including junior second baseman Blake Reese, who belted an RBI triple and an RBI single in a 2-for-4, three-RBI performance.
“That was awesome,” Reese said of the relievers. “To have two freshmen come in on back-to-back days in a hostile environment – complete fearlessness. I’m super proud of Tommy and Jack.”
Reese said the rookies seem to enjoy pitching on the road.
“I think they throw a little harder on the road,” Reese said. “Their adrenaline pumps harder. Some of their ‘velo’ was surprising. They’ve got good arms, and we had to face it all fall.
“They were locked in (this weekend) – you couldn’t talk to them in the dugout. They had their game faces on.”
Besides great relief pitching, sloppy play by Miami helped the Gators, who scored five unearned runs.
The Gators (7-0) won their 10th consecutive game, dating to last season’s national championship run. In their yearly series against Miami (2-4), the Gators have won six straight, 10 of 11 and 25 of the last 30 games.
Who: No. 1 Florida (7-0) vs. Miami (2-4)
When: 12 p.m.
Where: Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, Coral Gables
Miami pitchers Saturday issued six walks and one wild pitch, hitting two batters. The Canes (2-4) also made three errors and had one passed ball.
Florida scored two runs on bases-loaded walks, one on a hit by pitch, one on a passed ball and one on sacrifice fly.
Other Gators heroes included shortstop Jonathan India, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, including a run-scoring single, and Nick Horvath, who drove in a run and saved at least two with a diving catch in shallow center field.
“That catch,” Kowar said, “was out of control.”
Note: Sophomore Tyler Dyson looks to improve to 2-0 on the year against Miami’s Evan McKendry. The game will be available for streaming on WatchESPN.