Sophomore right fielder Wil Dalton said he spent the week leading up to Florida’s regional opener Friday against Columbia sticking with an approach and being mature about it.
“Getting back to being who I am and knowing who I am,” Dalton said.
Dalton made his first regional game in a Gator uniform a memorable one, going 4-for-5 with two doubles, a homer and six RBIs in Florida’s 13-5 win over Columbia before 2,823 at McKethan Stadium.
Florida (43-17) will face No. 2 seed Jacksonville in the winner’s bracket game Saturday at 7 p.m., with junior righty ace Brady Singer on the mound to start the game. Singer (10-1, 2.25 ERA), who has sat out the last two weeks with a hamstring strain, will be making his first start since May 11 against Georgia.
“We get a chance to get Brady back on the mound,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It gives us a ton of confidence and hopefully Brady pitches like he’s certainly capable of.”
Dalton’s breakout performance was needed on an afternoon when No. 1 national seed Gators fell behind 3-1 in the third inning due to an ineffective start from freshman righty Tommy Mace. But freshman lefty Jordan Butler (6-1) restored order with a terrific five-inning relief stint, allowing just a run on two hits with five strikeouts to earn the win.
“My slider had more break to it and I was able to control it to both sides of the plate,” Butler said. “And then my fastball was just spotting outside the whole day. It felt good.”
Dalton cut Columbia’s lead to 3-2 with an RBI single in the third inning. Then,Florida sent 10 batters to the plate and belted five extra base hits during a six-run fourth inning. Deacon Liput tied the score at 3 with an RBI double. Then, with the bases loaded, junior third baseman Jonathan India lined a two-RBI double down the left field line to put Florida ahead to stay 5-3. Dalton followed with a two-RBI double to put Florida up 7-3 and could have finished the afternoon hitting for the cycle, but was thrown out trying to extend his double to a triple. The inning ended with two more extra base hits, a triple from sophomore left fielder Austin Langworthy and an RBI double from junior second baseman Blake Reese that put UF up 8-3.
Florida finished the game with a season-high 10 extra-base hits. Junior catcher Jonah Girand’s first career home run, a two-run shot, put Florida up 10-4 in the seventh inning. Dalton capped his big day with a home run to center field in the eighth inning to put the Gators up 12-5.
“It’s great to get the train back on the tracks,” Dalton said.
Dalton, who hit his 17th home run of the season and first since April 24 against Mercer, said he felt at times he had been pressing a bit to help make up for the absence for catcher JJ Schwarz, who is out indefinitely with a broken hand.
“There’s always that attitude inside you like I’ve got to do more,” Dalton said. “But really it’s just be yourself, be who you are and that’s good enough.”
But O’Sullivan said he challenged both Dalton and India to be more productive in the middle of the order this weekend to make up for Schwarz’s absence.
“You’re going to win at the end of the year with your dudes,” O’Sullivan said. “Wil has got to pick up his game a little bit and so does Jonathan.”
Mace, who had allowed just two earned runs over 13.1 innings in his prior two starts, showed some freshman jitters in his first regional start. Florida took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a Dalton RBI double, but Mace allowed two runs on three hits in the second inning, then surrendered a solo home run to Columbia designated hitter Randell Kanemaru to start the third inning, which put Florida down 3-1. After Mace allowed two more hits to put runners on first and second, O’Sullivan pulled Mace for Butler.
At McKethan Stadium
Game 1 — Florida 13, Columbia 5
Game 2 — Jacksonville 5, FAU 3
Game 3 — Columbia (20-29) vs. FAU (40-18), 1 p.m.
Game 4 — Florida (43-17) vs. Jacksonville (40-19), 7 p.m., AM-850, 98.1-FM, ESPN3
Game 5 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser, 1 p.m.
Game 6 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 6 p.m.
If necessary Game 7 — Game 4 winner vs. Game 5 winner, 1 p.m.
“I’m not going to minimize this win because when you fall behind 3-1 and you play Columbia and things haven’t gone quite the way you wanted them to go the last couple of weeks, it could have went sideways in a hurry,” O’Sullivan said.
Florida had lost six of its last seven entering regional play, but was able to knock Columbia starter Harrisen Egly out of the game in the third inning and touched up relief pitcher Ty Wiest (2-5), who took the loss for the Lions (20-29).
“Harry didn’t have a good day, he’d be the first one to tell you that,” Columbia coach Brett Boretti said. “I think he’s been our guy the whole year, especially down the stretch. I think him and Ty, was a situation today where they might have been trying to a little too much and trying to be too perfect out there.”
Jacksonville advances to winner’s bracket to face UF
By Garry Smits
GAINESVILLE – Jacksonville University gets another shot at the Florida
Gators at McKethan Stadium.
Sam Armstrong and Cory Garrastazu hit tape-measure homers in the
fourth inning to rally the Dolphins from a 3-0 deficit and Armstrong
then delivered the go-ahead run with an RBI single in the fifth as JU
beat Florida Atlantic 5-3 in the NCAA regional on Friday in front of
JU (40-19) will play the defending national champion Gators (43-17) at
7 p.m. on Saturday. The winner advances to the region championship
game on Sunday at 6 p.m.
The Dolphins beat Florida the last time they were in town, 8-4 on April
17. The difference on Saturday is that they will face UF ace Brady Singer
(10-1), the Baseball America national player of the year and the SEC
pitcher of the year.
Singer’s brother played for JU coach Chris Hayes at Seminole State
College and Hayes has watched Singer pitch since he was at Eustis High
“Brady is a very special talent … as good as there is in the country,”
Hayes said. “We have our hands full on this stage, against their best
guy. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
JU won its first NCAA tournament game since a 5-4 victory over
Manhattan in the 2011 Gainesville regional. That was also the last time
the Dolphins qualified for the NCAA tournament.
“We always want to take the next step, whatever’s in front of us,” JU
starter and winner Chris Gau (9-3) said.
The Owls (40-18) got to Gau for two runs in the first inning, thanks to
an error, a walk and a single by David Miranda to load the bases,
followed by RBI fielder’s choice grounders by Eric Rivera and Cody
Wilson then slammed his 13 th homer of the season to lead off the
fourth to make it 3-0. But after Jared DeSantolo’s double, Gau rallied to
retire the next nine hitters.
JU tied the game in the bottom the fourth on Armstrong’s two-run
homer over the center field wall, following a single by Angel Camacho,.
One out later, Garrastazu sent a soaring driver to right-center that just
nicked the top of the scoreboard.
With two outs in the fifth, Scott Dubrule singled, Camacho walked and
Armstrong singled up the middle to break the tie.
Ruben Someillen then hit an RBI single to right-center in the sixth.
Armstrong’s homer and RBI single and Someillen’s run-scoring hit all
came with two strikes.
“We couldn’t put them away with two strikes,” FAU coach John
Gau got into a jam in the seventh inning when the Owls’ Joe Montes
singled and Pedro Pages walked. Richie Nizza attempted to bunt the
runners over but Camacho raced in from first, gobbled up the ball and
forced pinch-runner Diamond Johnson at second.
Freshman Trent Palmer then came on in relief and got Tyler Frank to
bounce into an inning-ending double play. Palmer then retired FAU in
order in the last two innings.