Florida found itself in an unfamiliar spot Wednesday: trailing early, to a team it had needed just two hours to overcome just a night earlier nonetheless.
But the No. 1-ranked UF baseball team, led by a pair of home runs from Jonathan India, saw its bats come alive in the decisive fifth inning to claim the home-and-home series over the North Florida Ospreys with an 8-3 win night at McKethan Stadium.
“I worked on some things after the game yesterday, and I didn’t have a great game yesterday at UNF,” India said, “So I just worked on my approach before tonight. And I was just really committed to it tonight.”
The Ospreys struck first in the top of the first inning as UF freshman right-handed pitcher Tommy Mace, making his first collegiate start, gave up a home run to the second batter he faced.
With UNF seizing the early momentum, India would swing things back in UF’s favor, tying the game on the first pitch he saw from left-hander Austin Drury with a solo shot to right field. It’s India’s third home run of the season.
North Florida (3-6) took the lead back in the fourth inning on an unearned run following a fielding error by UF second baseman Blake Reese, and UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan opted to end Mace’s first start after having given up two runs on just two hits in 3.2 innings of action. Sophomore Andrew Baker took the mound with UF facing a deficit.
“I thought he was good,” O’Sullivan said of Mace’s starting debut. “We wanted to keep his pitch count between 45 and 50 pitches.”
After an RBI single from freshman left fielder Shane Shifflett brought home India, it would be all Florida (9-1) the rest of the way in a fifth inning that saw seven consecutive UF batters record hits.
Senior catcher JJ Schwarz put two more on the board for the Gators in the fifth with a blast over the wall in left field, his fourth home run of the season.
India would pad the lead with his second home run of the night, marking three runs for Florida on as many pitches. And freshman Brady Smith concluded the inning’s scoring barrage by hitting his first collegiate home run.
“We swung it well,” India said. “We’re just, I think, more mature this year as a team. We’ve learned from last year. (The beginning of) last year was tough for all of us.”
Following Mace’s start, Baker, freshman Hunter McMullen and sophomore Austin Langworthy, with the latter making his first trip to the mound this season, scattered just two hits over the ensuing four innings to secure the win.
The Gators return to the Mac for a weekend series with Stony Brook University.
“I thought for the most part the pitching staff was good. And obviously India had a great night at the plate,” O’Sullivan said. “All in all, we had a chance to get some other guys in there to pitch and to play, and for the most part it was a clean game.”