Florida halts slide, defeats Rhode Island

UF ace Brady Singer at McKethan Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

Brady Singer continued his undefeated start to the season for the No.1-ranked Gators baseball team, although UF didn’t end up needing his best.
Nick Horvath’s 3-for-4 performance at the plate and Nelson Maldonado’s fourth-inning grand slam eliminated any doubt that Florida would suffer a third consecutive loss, as the Gators drubbed Rhode Island 9-0 on Friday night at McKethan Stadium.
“I feel like this time I had my better stuff,” Singer said. “I feel like, (coach Kevin O’Sullivan said) this was a warm-up for next weekend. So just we make sure we come out hard and start doing things you want to do.”
Singer, making his fourth start of the season, allowed just two hits while striking out eight batters across seven innings while keeping the Rams (2-9) off of the scoreboard. Nick Long took over on the mound to lead off the eighth inning and didn’t allow a hit with the win secured.
After managing a combined nine runs in a pair of mid-week losses to UCF, Florida managed to re-find the groove early in the night.
After Singer went three-up, three-down to lead off the first inning, senior catcher JJ Schwarz delivered an RBI single to shallow left to score Wil Dalton. Schwarz would find home two batters later when Keenan Bell reached first on a fielder’s choice. A solo home run from Horvath padded the lead in the ensuing inning before Maldonado’s four-run blast put Florida (13-3) in the driver’s seat.
“We can’t sleep on anybody,” Maldonado said. “We’ve got to come out here and play 100 percent every time.”
Schwarz singled to left center in the seventh to score Maldonado, and Andrew Baker came home on a wild pitch in the eighth to cap the scoring.
Florida returns to McKethan Stadium on Saturday with an alteration to their schedule: with rain predicted for Sunday, UF and Rhode Island will instead play a doubleheader Saturday, with first pitch set for 1 p.m. The subsequent game will begin approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first.
“(Singer) worked awfully hard this week at trying to get the ball back down in the zone a little bit more and get some of that sink back that we’re so used to seeing,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought he was really sharp. When he’s got that sinker going, he’s got a chance to have some really quick innings.
“The challenge, what we talked about yesterday, is we’re going to have to play a little bit better. We haven’t played great yet, I think up to our capabilities. But I think with Florida State coming up next week and then obviously traveling on the road to start SEC play, we’re going to have to play better. And I thought this was almost like a dress rehearsal this weekend where we’re going to dial it up a little bit.”