By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent
In the final series before SEC baseball play, Florida made a change on the mound and started sophomore Tommy Mace as its Friday starting pitcher for the first time in his career.
Mace was solid for most of the game and improved his record to 4-0 this season (9-0 overall), as home runs from Nelson Maldonado and Brady McConnell powered Florida to a 6-5 win over Yale at McKethan Stadium.
UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan informed Mace last Sunday that he would be getting the nod against the Bulldogs.
“I felt OK,” Mace said. “Nothing changes. Friday, Saturday or Sunday, it doesn’t matter. You’re still a top pitcher in the SEC.”
Mace allowed six hits and two runs through six innings, striking out three batters and hitting one with a pitch. But Yale’s Griffin Dey doubled to right center to score two runs in the top of the seventh, ending Mace’s night. He finished with 90 pitches.
“I thought he gave a good effort,” O’Sullivan said of Mace. “I think he pitched fine. I knew his stuff might be a little bit off being on short rest, so now moving forward he’ll get his full seven days and I think he’ll be ready to go next weekend.”
Maldonado got the Gators on the board first with his 200th career hit, bringing home Wil Dalton on a single through the right side. Later, Jacob Young’s second-inning bunt scored Jud Fabian.
Maldonado stepped to the plate in the third and connected on his first home run of the season, a two-run shot to left field to give the Gators a 4-1 lead.
“I’m excited for him. I gotta go congratulate him,” O’Sullivan said. “Nelly has been a really good hitter for us for three-plus years now. All the at-bats matter. You never know which one is going to come back to help you. We won by one run. Every run counts.”
After Dey’s double brought the Bulldogs within one score, McConnell responded in the bottom of the seventh with a left-center solo shot to give the Gators a 6-4 lead.
“I just was trying to get my pitch and he left one over the plate 2-0 and I was ready for it,” said McConnell, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games. “It felt good, for sure. I knew I got all of it.”
Yale added another run in the ninth, but Nolan Crisp closed out the game in his one inning of action. Hunter Ruth replaced Mace and retired all five batters he faced.
Despite the win, O’Sullivan was frustrated with several calls and signs missed by his players.
“We’re still making mistakes that, Game 16, we need to start eliminating,” he said. “We at some point have got to stop making the same ones over and over. That just falls on everybody.
“I don’t want everybody to walk out of here feeling like everything is great and we won 6-5. Because the mistakes that we’re making, they will come back to haunt us at some point.”
The Gators (11-5) again host Yale (3-5) on Saturday at 4 p.m.