By Garry Smits, GateHouse Florida
Jacksonville — The Florida Gators ruined Mike Martin’s final night in Jacksonville, but they’ve ruined a lot of nights for the veteran Florida State baseball coach in recent years.
Brady McConnell highlighted a three-run seventh inning with a two-run double to erase a 2-1 deficit and three UF pitchers combined for a five-hitter and 10 strikeouts, as the Gators’ winning streak against the Seminoles reached double-digits with a 4-2 victory Tuesday in front of 8,041 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
Florida (17-10) has beaten FSU (17-7) 10 times in a row and 16 of the last 18 meetings.
Martin, who is in the midst of a farewell tour in his 40th and final season as the FSU coach, was given the key to the city by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, but he came away empty-handed for the fourth year in a row in the neutral-site game between the rivals teams.
All four UF victories during its current streak against FSU in Jacksonville have been low-scoring, with a combined 17 runs. UF won last year’s game 2-1 in just over two hours.
“This is always a really good ballgame,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I knew it would be low scoring with the way the wind was blowing [dead into the hitters in advance of a Northeaster headed for the area]. It was going to be one of those games where the team that made the least mistakes defensively and the least number of walks probably had the best chance of winning.”
The Gators won that battle, barely. UF’s pitchers issued two walks and there were two errors, while FSU pitchers walked three and the defense committed three errors.
The key: none of the players who reached on errors scored for FSU while two of the players reaching on errors scored for Florida.
FSU also smacked several scary line drives to the outfield that UF players ran down. Right fielder Wil Dalton made three impressive grabs, including a shot to the wall in the first inning by Reese Albert with a runner on.
“He saved us some runs,” O’Sullivan said of Dalton.
Martin said he couldn’t fault his team’s at-bats.
“I’m not going to say we chased some bad pitches or made mistakes,” he said. “We just hit some good balls right at people. That’s what you call baseball.”
Crisp pitched five innings of three-hit ball to start the game. He was lifted for Jordan Butler after giving up a two-run homer by Mike Salvatore in the bottom of the sixth. Butler got out of the inning and Christian Scott (2-1) pitched the last 3.1 innings, allowing only one hit and striking out five.
“This is not an easy place to pitch in front of all of these people, as a freshman,” O’Sullivan said of Crisp and Scott.
The victory also was huge in light of getting swept by Vanderbilt last weekend, by a total margin of 34-6.
“We really needed this one,” McConnell said.