Patience prevails in Gators’ extra-innings win

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McKethan Stadium on the UF campus. [Cyndi Chambers/ Correspondent]

It’s a cliche at this point, but the phrase patience is a virtue was one the No. 2 Florida baseball team lived by Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium against Jacksonville University.

In the bottom of the 10th inning with two outs, Nathan Hickey and Brady Smith each drew walks on full counts before freshman pinch-hitter Isaac Nunez delivered a game-winning RBI single off Dolphins hurler Chris Mauloni (0-1) on an 0-2 count to lift the Gators to a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Dolphins.

Nunez’s hit, the first of his college career, sent pinch-runner Cal Greenfield flying home from second base.

The victory runs Florida’s record to 5-0 ahead of its big weekend series in Coral Gables against the No. 1 Miami Hurricanes. Those rankings are from the D1baseball.com.

“It was so surreal, my first hit as a Gator baseball player … my guys are 5-0 now and it feels good to say going into Miami this weekend,” Nunez said. “Hopefully we go into Miami, get a nice sweep and move on.”

Early on, the game wasn’t going in UF’s favor when an error and a walk put runners on first and second in the top of the first inning. With two outs, Jacksonville junior first baseman Christian Coipel launched a three-run homer off Gators starter Jordan Butler to take the Dolphins (1-4) to a 3-0 lead.

Florida scratched out a run each in the second and third innings, the first on a sacrifice fly by Smith to plate Kendrick Calilao and then Jud Fabian turned his leadoff double into a run scored on a wild pitch later in the third inning to pull the Gators within 3-2.

In the fifth inning, Fabian led off another inning with instant offense by drilling a solo home run into the left field bleachers to tie the game at 3-all.

Fabian went 2 for 5 with two runs scored and an RBI from his leadoff spot in the lineup. The only other Gator with multiple hits in the contest was senior third baseman Kirby McMullen, who went 2 for 4.

“You know, we went down 3-0 and came into the dugout and we just really never doubted ourselves throughout the whole game,” Fabian said, “and we ended up getting it done.”

After Butler was pulled in the top of the third inning, the game was officially turned over to the UF bullpen. Five pitchers – Tyler Nesbitt, Ryan Cabarcas, David Luethje, Ben Specht and winning pitcher Nick Pogue (1-0) – combined to toss 7.2 scoreless innings while the offense kept trying to find success.

Still, with the big games against Miami looming, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said the Gators’ focus was never on anything but Jacksonville on Wednesday night.

“That’s one thing we talked about before the game, we can’t look past JU tonight,” he said. “I know we got Miami this weekend, we’re all looking forward to that. But I knew … how challenging this was going to be.”