After freshman left-hander Jordan Butler gave up three home runs in as many innings, it appeared the Gators would be set for a result they had experienced just once since the 2016 Super Regionals: a loss to in-state rival Florida State.
But against the No. 2-ranked Gators baseball team, the Seminoles went cold at the plate, allowing UF’s bats to get hot and turn a deficit into a domination.
Thanks in part to a seven-run fifth inning, Florida turned the tide with 10 unanswered runs and defeated No. 7-ranked FSU 12-6 on Tuesday night at Alfred A. McKethan Stadium.
“We got off to a little bit of a rocky start, pitching-wise,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I was really pleased with how our dugout responded.”
Florida, facing the Seminoles for the first time this season, could only watch as FSU continued to make solid contact off of Butler’s pitches. The Seminoles, coming into the game with just seven home runs in 17 games this season, built an early 4-1 lead, and O’Sullivan went to the bullpen and replace Butler with fellow freshman Tommy Mace. And from there, FSU had no answer for Mace, who would allow just a lone hit while striking out four Seminoles across 3.1 innings of action.
“I thought Tommy Mace was great,” O’Sullivan said. “He came in and kind of slowed things down a little bit for us.”
The Gators (16-3) turned in another solid hitting performance, especially from their eight and nine-hole hitters: Nick Horvath and Austin Langworthy. Through five innings, the pair combined for a perfect 6-for-6 at the plate with three RBIs, and Langworthy recorded two hits in the fifth before Florida State (14-3) could end the inning.
“When you’re getting production from the bottom half of your order, it extends your line-up,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s obviously very encouraging.”
Seminoles coach Mike Martin attempted to stop the bleeding with a series of mound meetings and pitching changes, but UF refused to cool off.
FSU got two runs back in the eighth inning, but Jonathan India’s second solo home run of the night in the bottom half of the frame kept the momentum firmly on Florida’s side.
“I hit them both solid. The first one was like a line drive. I didn’t see it go out, but lucky it did,” India said. “I’ve worked on some things from last year, and I’ve found, I guess you can say, a better overall swing.”
Tuesday’s announced attendance of 6,042 ranks as the fifth-highest in McKethan Stadium history. Florida’s six-game winning streak over FSU is the longest of the series between the in-state rivals.
With a strong start to the season, the Gators enter the first weekend of SEC play, where they’ll hit the road bound for Columbia, South Carolina, for a series with the Gamecocks, with first pitch set for 7 p.m. Friday. Meanwhile, the Seminoles will have a shot at revenge against the Gators on March 27 when the two teams meet in Jacksonville.
“We have a lot of momentum. We’re all swinging it well as a team. The pitching is doing fine. We’re playing great defense,” India said. “That’s what you need, especially in SEC play against a great team like South Carolina. So we’ve just got to keep our momentum and play well this weekend.”