By Garry Smits, GateHouse Florida
JACKSONVILLE — Florida lost its top returning hitter from last season and its coach in the third inning Tuesday at Jacksonville University.
But the young Gators never lost their composure.
Two freshmen, Jud Fabian and Cory Acton, produced the winning run and two freshman pitchers, David Luethje and Christian Scott combined for six innings of scoreless, three-hit relief as Florida edged JU 5-4 in 10 innings at Sessions Stadium.
Acton coaxed a walk from Dolphins All-American closer Chris Mauloni and Fabian took a high fastball and drove it into the right-center field gap to send Acton in standing up.
Fabian was thrown out by center fielder Ruben Someillan trying to stretch the hit into a triple, but freshman Nolan Crisp got the Dolphins out in order in the bottom of the 10th for his fifth save of the season.
Scott (1-1) got the victory, allowing only one hit in 2.2 innings. Luethje threw 3.1 scoreless innings in relief of starter Justin Alintoff after JU took a 4-3 lead in the third.
The Gators (6-3) won their third game in a row and won at Jacksonville (3-4) for the first time since 2013.
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan and right fielder Wil Dalton were thrown out of the game in the third inning by plate umpire Christopher Tipton in a bizarre sequence. Dalton, unhappy with an inside pitch that was called a strike, drew a line in the dirt where he thought the pitch was, and Tipton quickly ejected him.
O’Sullivan came out to argue and also was tossed out.
“I can’t comment on the umpiring, but that was a quick ejection,” O’Sullivan said. “I know why I was thrown out. It just happened so fast to Wil.”
However, the Gators regrouped to avoid two losses in a row to opponents from Jacksonville. The University of North Florida beat the Gators 7-1 last week.
“They battled … they’re so young, we need to scrap and claw like we did tonight,” O’Sullivan said. “The hit by Fabian was big, but if those two freshman pitchers don’t come through and hold them we might not be in this position.”
The Gators took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on Kendrick Calilao’s sacrifice fly and an RBI double by Jordan Butler. Brady McConnell had started the game with a walk and Austin Langworthy singled.
McConnell then made it 3-0 in the second with a run-scoring single to chase Blake Reese home after Reese was hit by a pitch and stole second.
The Dolphins got two runs back in the home half of the second on No. 9 hitter Cory Heffron’s two-out, two-run double and then took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the third on Cory Garrastazu’s two-run triple in the right-field corner with two out.
Nelson Maldonado, who replaced Dalton in the lineup, delivered the game-tying hit in the seventh. Langworthy singled, took second on a passed ball and scored when Maldonado doubled.
Who: UCF (5-2) vs. No. 7 Florida (6-3)
When: 6 p.m.
Where: McKethan Stadium
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM