TALLAHASSEE — Florida senior catcher JJ Schwarz may hope to see Florida State a few more times in the Super Regionals.
If that doesn’t happen, Schwarz and the rest of the Gators can look back on 2018 as another season when they swept the rival Seminoles.
Schwarz added a pair of big insurance runs with an RBI single and a long home run off the left field scoreboard in the eighth inning Tuesday, lifting No. 1 Florida to a 6-3 win over No. 12 FSU before 5,979 at Dick Howser Stadium.
Provided Florida and FSU don’t meet again in the postseason, Schwarz will finish his UF career batting .369 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs against the Seminoles.
“I always feel good playing against these guys,” Schwarz said. “I always have a chip on my shoulder. Way back in high school, there’s kind of a recruiting battle between FSU and Florida and ultimately, I obviously picked Florida.”
Schwarz said he originally wanted to go to Florida State but, “It didn’t work out, and ultimately I came to Florida.”
But Schwarz wasn’t the only offensive star for Florida on a cool April night. Left fielder Austin Langworthy went 2 for 4 with two RBI to extend his hitting streak to eight games. Junior third baseman Jonathan India extended his hit streak to 20 games, going 1 for 3 with two runs scored.
“Any time you beat an in-state rival, it’s really good,” Langworthy said. “I haven’t lost to these guys the two years I’ve been here and I hope to keep it that way.”
Florida (29-6) picked up its eighth straight win against FSU (24-10) and has won 13 of the last 14 meetings between the two schools.
“The recent success we’ve had, some things you just can’t explain,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I don’t know. We just have played clean baseball. I don’t think there’s any secret to it. We haven’t kicked the ball around.”
Freshman righty Tommy Mace (3-0) allowed two runs over four innings to earn the win, with Michael Byrne striking out three in 1.1 innings to earn his eighth save of the season. In between, freshman righty Jack Leftwich (2.2 IP, 1 ER) and sophomore lefty Andrew Baker (1 IP, 0 ER) worked out of jams in crucial bridge innings. O’Sullivan allowed Leftwich and Baker to work through some jams with UF’s bullpen already taxed following a doubleheader Sunday against Tennessee.
“I thought Andrew was really good,” O’Sullivan said. “He came in and did exactly what we needed him to do. It’s a tough lineup to navigate through because there are so many left-handed hitters, switch hitters.”
In an effort to change its luck, FSU brought back one of its standouts, former Seminole and current Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, to throw out the first pitch. The atmosphere became even more charged when designated hitter Cooper Swanson launched a 1-0 pitch from Mace over the bullpen in left field, giving FSU an early 1-0 in the third inning.
But the Gators answered with three runs in the fourth against FSU righty Andrew Karp, a rally that started when India singled, stole second and moved to third on a throwing error by FSU catcher Cal Raleigh. Wil Dalton then delivered an RBI double down the left field line to tie the score at 1. Florida then got a pair of clutch two-out RBI singles from Langworthy and Blake Reese to go ahead 3-1.
“That’s kind of been our mantra this whole season,” Schwarz said.
Mace gave way to Leftwich after walking a batter to lead off the fifth. Leftwich limited the damage, keeping the Gators up 3-2 after an RBI groundout by shortstop Mike Salvatore.
Florida answered in the sixth with an RBI single by Schwarz and an RBI double by Langworthy to go up 5-2.
Leftwich worked out of a bases loaded jam in the sixth but surrendered a solo home run to FSU left fielder Jackson Lueck in the seventh, cutting UF’s lead to 5-3. Baker walked the first batter he saw in the bottom of seventh but got Raleigh to fly out to end the inning. Baker then struck out the first two batters he faced in the eighth before giving way to Byrne.
In the top of the eighth, Schwarz put Florida back up 6-3, launching a towering home run on a 3-2 pitch from FSU reliever C.J. Van Eyk high off the scoreboard in left field.
“I knew he wasn’t going to throw his breaking ball because he wasn’t getting it over for strikes,” Schwarz said. “I was just sitting dead red fastball and tried to put a good swing on it.”