By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent
Florida’s baseball team came into the Winthrop series with the offense still being a work in progress.
The Gators made significant strides in their weekend sweep at McKethan Stadium, scoring a total of 49 runs and hitting three grand slams in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. UF is the first school in SEC history to accomplish that feat.
After winning the opener 16-4 on Friday, Saturday’s contest was postponed due to weather. The day off didn’t disrupt Florida’s offensive groove.
UF continued to connect at the plate in Sunday’s first game and blasted the Eagles, 28-5. It was the most runs scored by the Gators since 2003 against Hofstra. The Gators won the series after the 5-3 decision in the nightcap.
“It was a good weekend for us,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Nice to see us swing the bats as well as we did.”
Florida had 23 hits in the first game Sunday, scoring eight runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and a season-high 11 in the sixth. Prior to this week, the Gators had not scored five-plus runs in an inning once this season. They’ve now done it five times since Wednesday’s game against UCF.
“From the beginning, I did believe that we were going to hit this year,” O’Sullivan said. “Now we’ve got a long way to go. Obviously it’s a game of ups and downs, and it’s a long season.
“The takeaway from this weekend is we faced two really good starters and we learned how to play 16 innings fairly solid defensively. And obviously Jacob (Young) having the weekend that he did offensively kind of helps us solidify the lineup a little bit more.”
Young homered in his first at-bat Sunday with an opposite field shot, and then hit the first of two grand slams for Florida in the sixth inning.
Which score did he enjoy more?
“The grand slam was better. The first home run was my first one ever, so it felt good too. They’re pretty even I guess,” Young said. “I think everyone on the team is seeing the ball really well. We didn’t score as much as we would’ve liked to at the beginning of the year, so it was nice to get rolling and we’re hoping to have the momentum carry us through.”
Kendrick Calilao and Santino Miozzi also hit grand slams for the Gators over the Eagles (3-6). O’Sullivan was pleased with the play of starting pitchers Tommy Mace (3-0) and Jack Leftwich (3-0). Mace threw five innings with six strikeouts and three hits allowed in the first game, while Leftwich went six innings with five strikeouts and four hits in the nightcap.
“I thought both of our starters, Tommy and Jack, did a really good job,” O’Sullivan said. “We probably threw more changeups than we have in a long time. I think that was really important for us.”
Despite their offensive explosion against Winthrop, O’Sullivan wants to see more improvement from his Gators (9-4).
“I don’t want to take one weekend and think we got everything solved. That will be the message this week,” he said. “Every game is different. We haven’t been very well in midweek games. We’ve got a huge challenge in front of us with Florida Gulf Coast. We’re going to see their weekend arms.”
The Gators will play host to FGCU on Tuesday and Wednesday.