Florida Gulf Coast University arrived in Gainesville with recent success against the Gators, in addition to one of the nation’s top offenses and a winning streak spanning more than two weeks.
But Florida would have its revenge Tuesday night.
The No. 1-ranked Florida baseball team recovered from an early deficit before defeating the Eagles 8-4 at McKethan Stadium.
“It’s a really good offensive club,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It was a good start for them, an older club.
“We had a lot of production up and down the line-up. A lot of guys got hits tonight.”
The Eagles, who swept a two-game home-and-home series against Florida in 2017, struck first on Richie Garcia’s RBI single in the first inning. Garcia attempted to extend the lead to 2-0 but was thrown out at home by Gators second baseman Blake Reese.
Junior right-handed pitcher Evan Lumbert walked three consecutive UF batters in the bottom half of the inning, allowing the Gators to pull even at a run apiece on a sacrifice fly by UF senior catcher JJ Schwarz, who extended his record with the 22nd sacrifice fly of his UF career.
Florida (26-5) took the lead in the second inning on Deacon Liput’s RBI double, and Schwarz’s RBI single in the ensuing inning pushed the lead to 3-1. Schwarz now sits alone in second in program history with 216 RBI for his career.
The Eagles had a chance to pull even in the fourth inning when Kohl Gilmore came home on a passed ball, but Spencer Levine would strike out, leaving the tying run stranded at third. FGCU looked poised to reclaim the lead in the sixth inning when Eric Gonzalez appeared to have a two-run home run to center, but Nick Horvath made a leaping grab at the wall to keep UF’s lead intact.
Florida registered five runs in the sixth inning, with three coming on Horvath’s fourth home run of the season, to secure UF’s seventh consecutive win.
“I just saw the ball and hit it,” Horvath said. “(On the catch, Austin) Langworthy said it’s out, and I just went for it.”
Freshman right-hander Tommy Mace (2-0) made his second start of the season and allowed seven hits across four innings while striking out four Eagles. Andrew Baker then came in to give the Gators three strong innings. He allowed just one hit while striking out three batters. Michael Byrne then closed out the final 1 2/3 innings.
Florida Gulf Coast (22-6) arrived in Gainesville with one of the most proficient offenses in the country, and the nation’s second-longest winning streak. The Eagles entered the night ranked seventh in on-base percentage (.415), ninth in scoring (8.1 runs per game), 10th in batting average (.313), and 13th in runs scored (218).
Jonathan India extended his hitting streak to 16 games when he doubled down the left-field line to lead off the third inning.
UF right-fielder Nelson Maldonado exited the game in the first inning after suffering an injury sliding into home. Horvath replaced Maldonado, allowing Wil Dalton to move to right field.
The Gators next hit the field Friday to open a weekend series against Tennessee, with first pitch set for 6:30 p.m.
“Coming off an emotional weekend with Vanderbilt, often times in the past we’ve maybe come out a little bit flat,” O’Sullivan said. “I think scoring one in the first three innings was really big for a team, and against a really good club. I wouldn’t be surprised if (FGCU) were in the regional at the end of the year.”