After his second straight three-hit game since getting moved to the leadoff spot Wednesday, Wil Dalton rewarded himself with 90 minutes in the Florida batting cage.
The result — a four-hit game that included three home runs as No. 1 Florida beat Stony Brook 12-5 Friday night.
“After Wednesday’s game, he said he doesn’t count those as hits,” said junior Blake Reese. “To me, that’s a little irrational but he stayed in the cage for an hour and a half. To keep working on his craft, he works his tail off.”
Dalton’s homers were bigger than the final score might indicate. He led off the game with the first one, hit a two-run homer in the fifth to tie the game and a three-run homer in a five-run eighth inning that blew the game open.
“I’ve had two in one game but never three,” said Dalton, a junior college transfer. “The third one was icing on the cake. I couldn’t be happier with my night.”
Florida (10-1) trailed Stony Brook (6-2) after four as Gator ace Brady Singer allowed back-to-back homers in the inning. But Dalton, who has had 10 hits since moving to the leadoff spot three games ago, drilled an off-speed pitch over the fence in left-center.
Dalton reacted by pumping his arms up and down as he rounded first.
“I’m known as a fiery guy and at that moment everything came out,” Dalton said. “Jordan (Butler, who walked to lead off the inning) probably was laughing more than anyone because when we were in the outfield he said, ‘I’m going to get on and you’re going to hit a home run.’ “
Florida took the lead in the sixth when Brady Smith brought home a run on an infield single and Nick Horvath drove home another with a perfect bunt single.
“It was probably our best offensive game of the year,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “(Dalton) obviously had a night to remember.”
In the top of the eighth with Florida leading by two, Reese made a nifty play at shortstop to end the inning with runners on second and third, charging a topped ball and making a strong throw across. Earlier in the game while playing second, a throwing error by Reese allowed the Sea Wolves to score a pair of runs.
“An error feels 20 times worse than a strikeout,” Reese said. “It hurts a little, but I had to refocus. The ball kept finding me. It’s just a big mental battle.”
Singer got the win to run his record to 3-0, throwing 100 pitches and striking out five. He allowed three earned runs and a season-high nine hits.
“Every time I got in a hole they picked me up,” he said of his offense.
Michael Byrne picked up his second save of the year pitching 1 ⅔ innings as a crowd of 3,366 watched. The two teams continue the series Saturday at 4 p.m.
Who: Stony Brook (6-2) vs. No. 1 Florida (10-1)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM
Pitching matchup: SB Bret Clarke (1-0, 2.00 ERA) vs. UF’s Jackson Kowar (2-0, 2.77)
NOTES: Florida’s infield had seen a variety of looks this year, including Friday night. It may change again in the coming weeks as O’Sullivan confirmed that suspended second baseman Deacon Liput will rejoin the team Wednesday. Liput started a team-high 68 games a year ago and had seven RBIs in the College World Series … Jonathan India, who started the game at shortstop, suffered a pulled hamstring and left the game in the fifth inning, but O’Sullivan said India’s departure was precautionary … Reese now leads the team with seven doubles, while Dalton took over the RBI lead with 15 after knocking in six Friday night.