By Jim Soracchi, Correspondent
With a bumpy start to its Southeastern Conference schedule, the Florida baseball team was looking for some momentum this weekend.
The Gators got that – and more – during their 12-3 win Saturday night over Alabama before 5,156 at McKethan Stadium.
Florida has taken the first two games from the Crimson Tide to snag its first SEC series win of the season and go for the sweep at noon Sunday. The start was moved up an hour due to expected rain in the area.
The Gators (19-10, 3-5) hit five home runs, including three in the third frame.
Tied 1-1 in the third, Jacob Young, Nelson Maldonado and Wil Dalton all hit no-doubters over the fence in left field off Alabama starter Brock Love to push the Gators out to a 5-1 lead.
Although it displayed impressive power, Florida got meaningful contributions in all phases of the game.
The Gators put forth an errorless performance on defense, got solid pitching overall – especially from freshman right-hander Christian Scott – and jumped on Crimson Tide (20-8, 2-6) pitching at nearly every turn.
Scott came on in relief of starting pitcher Tyler Dyson with the bases loaded and one out, and Florida up 5-1. The first-year hurler limited the damage to a single run to keep the Gators up 5-2.
It was Scott’s longest outing of the season, one where he gave up one hit and struck out five while allowing no earned runs to earn the win.
“He throws strikes,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan of Scott, who is now 3-1. “He has just enough fastball and he threw like four or five change-ups in a row — you know — and did a nice job there.”
The Crimson Tide’s only other run past that point came on a two-out passed ball in the top of the seventh. Ben Specht pitched a scoreless ninth to seal the win.
As a staff, the Gators allowed four hits and two earned runs, but put Alabama in business a few times by walking five and hitting three batters.
A two-run single by Young pushed Florida out to a 7-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Then, up 7-3 in the seventh, RBI doubles by Kendrick Calilao and Dalton put the Gators up by six runs.
Dalton broke out of a slump and his two hits Saturday raised his batting average 13 points to .222.
“It definitely was nice to, you know, go and do the things that I normally do,” Dalton said. “What I’m expected to do.”
Gators sophomore shortstop Brady McConnell hit two home runs, scored three times and drove in three to pace an offensive effort in which Florida had nine extra-base hits and saw eight of its nine starters in the batting order record a hit.