By Zach Abolverdi/Correspondent
The No. 1-ranked Florida baseball team stayed perfect Saturday after a 15-5 win over USF, clinching the series with a strong performance from pitcher Jack Leftwich.
After struggling in his previous start against Troy, giving up six runs in three frames, Leftwich rebounded by pitching six perfect innings and striking out five batters at McKethan Stadium.
The Gators finished with double-digit hits (15) for the ninth time this year and tied their season high for runs scored. With Alabama’s 3-2 loss to Lipscomb, UF (15-0) is now the only undefeated team in the country.
Florida put the game out of reach with a five-run sixth inning, powered by homers from Jordan Butler and Nathan Hickey. Cal Greenfield also hit his first home run of the season in the eighth.
“I thought we had some really good at-bats the entire day. We had five guys with multi-hit games,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Hickey ran into a ball. Of course, Jordan has been swinging it well. Cal had a nice day offensively with two hits and a homer.
“It was a really complete game. Jack was outstanding on the mound. Really pleased with how he bounced back, and defensively we were outstanding again. So all in all, it’s probably as complete a game as we’ve played all year long.”
Jud Fabian led off the first with a double and scored on Kirby McMullen’s groundout. Florida took a 4-0 lead in the second inning on Josh Rivera’s hit to plate Jacob Young and Greenfield’s two-RBI single, ending his 0-for-16 drought to scoring Rivera and Hickey.
UF added a run in the third when Young extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single to left center, driving home McMullen. The fourth inning produced another three-run frame for the Gators.
Jordan Butler and Young both singled to left field, scoring Fabian, Greenfield and McMullen for an 8-0 lead. Butler and Young led Florida with three hits.
For just the fifth time this year, the Gators reached double-digits runs in the sixth with right-field homers by Butler and Hickey, who has left the yard in three consecutive games.
“It’s awesome when your whole lineup is collectively hitting,” Butler said. “There’s no better feeling than that. Hitting home runs is always fun.”
After not allowing the first 18 batters to reach base, Leftwich cooled down during Florida’s five-run inning and gave up three runs on three hits in the seventh before coming out. He still redeemed himself after a tough night on the mound last weekend.
“I was excited to get out here again and attack,” Leftwich said. “Obviously you can get nervous about doing bad again, so it was really nice. It’s easy to lose confidence after an outing like that, so I was trying to stay confident because you need that as a pitcher.
“I just wanted to kind of focus a little harder, and my fastball felt the best it has in awhile. I felt good after the first inning. I knew it was going to be a pretty good day.”
O’Sullivan added, “Obviously his line doesn’t speak to how he threw, with three runs in the seventh. But there’s a lot of pride there. He’s competitive and knows the kind of reputation we have pitching-wise here, so I was pleased with how Jack bounced back from last week’s start.”
Both teams scored a pair of runs in the eighth, with USF’s Jordan Santos hitting a two-run homer off UF’s Justin Alintoff and Greenfield going yard to plate Brady Smith. After Alintoff had two strikeouts in 1.1 innings, Florida’s Ryan Cabarcus pitched the ninth and struck out Danny Gutcher swinging for the final out.
The Gators will go for the sweep Sunday at 1 p.m.