By Jim Harvin
Top-ranked Florida broke open a scoreless game with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and went on to score six more times in the sixth, seventh and eighth en route to an 8-0 win over Stony Brook before a McKethan Stadium crowd of 3,925 Saturday.
UF starter Jackson Kowar (3-0) picked up the win by tossing 6 1/3 innings of scoreless, four-hit ball and relievers Jordan Butler and Hunter McMullen finished it off by allowing just one hit over the final 2 2/3 innings, as the Gators (11-1) clinched the series over the Seawolves (6-3).
“I thought Jackson battled and gave us a chance to win,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I thought Butler came in a very tough situation there with just one out, but he got the fly ball to left and ran the count to 3-2 on the next hitter before he got the backwards K. There’s not many freshmen can come into a situation like that and be successful.”
Offensively, junior Blake Reese, making his first start at shortstop, went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored to pace a 13-hit attack while the Gators played errorless ball in the field.
Austin Langworthy and Keenan Bell each added a pair of hits for UF.
“I just saw the ball good and put some good swings on it,” Reese said. “I don’t have an elaborate plan or anything up there. I’m just trying to get out of my own way and just kind of let my body work through the swing. That’s really it.”
UF broke on top in the home half of the fourth inning, scoring twice to take a 2-0 lead. JJ Schwarz led off with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Following a fly out to left, Reese singled Schwarz to third and Langworthy then singled him home.
Later, with runners on the corners, freshman Shane Shifflett grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Reese with the second run of the inning.
“That was obviously huge,” Kowar said. “After that in the fifth and sixth, I thought it was really important for me to get zeroes. Shutdown innings are so big, so to be able to get us back in the dugout after we scored was huge.”
UF added a run in the sixth on a one-out, bases-loaded sacrifice fly by No. 9 hitter Nick Horvath that plated Reese, who had opened the inning with a single.
Butler came on in relief with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh and retired Michael Wilson on a fly to short left, then got out of the jam by striking out Nick Grande on a 3-2 pitch to protect the 3-0 lead.
Nelson Maldonado then led off the bottom of the seventh with a no-doubter over the left-field fence to make it 4-0, UF, and Reese swatted his first homer of the year with two outs to make it 5-0 and end the night for reliever Kevin Kernan.
Florida added three more runs in the eighth for the final cushion.
Seawolves’ starter Bret Clarke (1-1) took the loss.
The two teams conclude the series with a game at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Who: Stony Brook (6-3) vs. No. 1 Florida (11-1)
When: 1 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM
Pitching matchup: SB’s Brian Herrmann (2-0, 1.80 ERA) vs. UF’sTyler Dyson (1-1, 1.50)