Special to Gatorsports.com
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — No. 21 Texas A&M salvaged a game in the weekend SEC baseball series against top-ranked Florida with a 7-3 win Sunday.
The Aggies (34-14, 12-12 SEC) were handled by the Gators (38-11, 18-6) in the first two games of the series, so it was as close to a must-win contest for them in terms of hosting an NCAA regional.
After winning 9-0 on Friday and 6-1 Saturday behind solid play in all phases, the Gators struggled Sunday. Starting pitcher Jack Leftwich (4-2) gave up five runs on nine hits. Leftwich also allowed Texas A&M to score a run on a balk. UF, one of the nation’s best fielding teams, committed two errors, one that cost it two runs.
“This was a really good challenge for Jack,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I was pleased with how he threw, he just left a couple balls up and got caught in some offensive counts and they took advantage of it.
“Offensively we were good, but credit Texas A&M. They played really well today. They got the three-run second inning that kind of gave them momentum. All in all, we had a couple defensive mistakes with the popup in center field and another error at second base in the eighth. Overall, you win two out of three on the road in this league you have to be pleased with how you’re playing.”
Jonathan India stopped an 0-for-7 weekend slide with his 15th home run of the season to put UF up 1-0 in the first inning.
UF went up 2-0 in the second. JJ Schwarz walked and Brady Smith singled before Blake Reese hit a sacrifice fly.
The Aggies then took their first lead of the series with three runs in the second inning. Two singles, a run-scoring balk, an RBI double and a run-scoring single put the Aggies up 3-2.
The Gators tied it in the third. India singled, stole second and scored on Wil Dalton’s single.
That was it for the Gators against Aggies pitcher Stephen Kolek (5-4), who struck out five and scattered six hits in 6.2 innings. Reliever Nolan Hoffman finished with 2.1 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
Texas A&M then took the lead back in a big way when Hunter Coleman blasted a home run out of the stadium to go up 4-3 in the third.
Another solo home run, this one by Cole Bedford in the sixth inning, put the Aggies up 5-3.
A rare two-run error by UF center fielder Nick Horvath allowed two more Aggie runs in the seventh. The ball was dropping in shallow center field behind back-tracking shortstop Deacon Liput and the charging Horvath, who had the ball hit his glove and fall out for the first error of his career (108 games).
Florida returns home for a 6 p.m. game Tuesday against USF.