By Aaron Brand, Staff writer
Nearly nine months after Bethune-Cookman beat Florida for the first time in program history in the Gainesville Regional, the Wildcats had a chance to repeat the task Wednesday.
But Florida, featuring a freshman starter for the second straight game, dodged bullets in the first few frames to hold onto a 7-4 win at McKethan Stadium.
The top-ranked Gators (5-0) built an early lead, as team RBI leader Wil Dalton singled home Nelson Maldonado in the first. In the third, JJ Schwarz clanged a fastball off the scoreboard in right, his second homer of the season, to stake UF to a 3-0 lead.
The senior captain finished a double shy of the cycle.
“He’s using the whole field,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said of Schwarz. “He’s seeing the ball really well.”
BC (1-4) had opportunities early, including in the third when the Wildcats squandered back-to-back singles to start the frame. After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position, Jordan Butler got Danny Rodriguez to strike out, walked Giovanny Lorenzo on four pitches to load the bases and then induced a fly out to center.
In the second, Joseph Fernando missed a home run by inches as it struck the top of the left-field wall, halting the lead runner at third. Adonis Lao then struck out to retire the side.
In the third, BC cashed in. Back-to-back singles and a passed ball to start the frame set up a run-scoring single by Zach Spivey and an RBI groundout by Kyle Corbin to make it a 4-3 game, but UF added runs in the fifth and seventh to pull away.
“I don’t think we really had bad at-bats, we just didn’t get it done,” Bethune-Cookman coach Barrett Shaft said. “We had a couple balls off the wall that were feet from (being home runs), we had a line drive down the third-base line that was feet from (being fair). “Not to say it would have made any difference in the outcome, but I’m certainly not displeased with the way they swung it.”
Florida will open a series at Miami at 7 p.m. Friday. BC will host Milwaukee at 6 p.m. Friday.