No. 5 Florida’s offense cranks up again

Nelson Maldonado, UF's senior captain, has been on fire the last two weeks. Over the past nine games, he is 16-for-32 (.500) with seven extra base hits, two home runs and 15 RBI. He has only struck out twice in 35 plate appearances in that span. [Cyndi Chambers/Gainesville Sun Correspondent]

By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent

Florida’s baseball team has continued its offensive tear in the month of March this weekend against Yale.

After a dozen hits in Friday’s win, No. 5 UF connected at the plate 18 times Saturday for a 15-1 win to take the series before 3,756 at McKethan Stadium.

“That was big,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We had three guys get three hits a piece, so it was a good night.”

The Gators are now hitting .369 this month with 14 homers and 87 runs scored. They jumped out in front in the second inning with a pair of home runs from Jud Fabian and Nelson Maldonado, who hit his second one in as many days. Fabian’s two-run shot to left field put the Gators up 3-0.

“That felt awesome,” Maldonado said. “Hitting is contagious and I’m hoping to spread that throughout the team. As of lately, we’ve been hitting really well. We had a good approach at the plate.”

Maldonado doubled in his next at-bat and scored when Austin Langworthy reached on an error. Robert Pena’s single to the right side brought home Langworthy to extend Florida’s lead to 5-0 in the third.

Pitcher Jack Leftwich (4-0) — making the first Saturday start of his career — scattered five hits (all singles) through the first four innings, but stranded every runner. In the fifth, however, Yale’s Mason LaPlante doubled down the left field line and Simon Whiteman scored to make it 5-1.

Leftwich tossed 87 pitches and struck out five batters in five innings, allowing eight hits and one walk.

“He’s dealing with a blister on his finger,” O’Sullivan said. “He’s close to being 100 percent, so hopefully by next weekend he’ll be good. He hung in there really well and made some big pitches when he needed to end a couple innings with runners in scoring position, so he did nice.”

The Gators put the game away in the bottom of the fifth inning, racking up eight runs. The offensive eruption included a double by Langworthy, Maldonado’s second RBI and a center-field single by Jacob Young, who extended his hitting streak to nine games.

UF added another run in the seventh when Cory Acton singled up the middle to drive in Nick Blasucci, who had his first hit as a Gator in the next inning. His right-field single plated Young for Florida’s final score of the night.

The Gators (12-5) will wrap up their series against Yale (3-7) at 1 p.m. Sunday before hosting rival FSU on Tuesday.

“They gotta take care of business,” O’Sullivan said. “We gotta continue to get better. We got Florida State on Tuesday, but that has nothing to do with tomorrow.”