Young breaks hitting record in No. 6 Florida's sweep of Florida A&M
In spite of an 8-0 advantage, Florida found itself anxious in the dugout in the eighth inning of the eventual win Sunday over Florida A&M University at Florida Ballpark.
The nerves, however, weren’t for the result.
The No. 6 Gators (9-3) were anxious for outfielder Jacob Young, who had recorded a base hit in 29 consecutive games dating back nearly two years. Young, hitting .415 over the course of the streak, had been hit by a pitch earlier in the game but was without a hit before stepping to the plate to lead off the eighth.
“You kind of hear some rumbles late in the game, especially there in the eighth, and you start thinking about it,” Young said. “You hear some things in the stands, some things in the dugout. A lot of nervous energy, but I knew I just wanted to put the ball in the play and figure out a way to try and extend it.”
There was no other choice: his streak in jeopardy, Young was going out swinging.
“I got told from the dugout it was kind of like a hit-and-run situation,” Young said, although that was more of a mindset suggestion according to coach Kevin O’Sullivan rather than the literal call. “So I was swinging.”
The Ponte Vedra native hit one under the shortstop’s glove with the count at 3-1, and though it looked as if Young was clear, he’d have to wait to find out as replay reviewed whether to rule it an error on the shortstop.
“I don’t think I’ve ever looked at the scoreboard that long,” Young admitted, “waiting for it to come down, honestly, but I knew if I put the ball in play and gave myself a chance, I could still figure out a way to get to first base. And when I hit it, I knew I had a chance, so I just ran as hard as I could and just hoped the ball wasn’t going to beat me there.”
Soon, the single was confirmed, extending his hitting streak to 30 games, snapping Tim Olson’s program record set in 2001.
Young was the emphatic postlude on Florida’s sweep of the Rattlers, which saw the Gators jump out to an early 7-0 lead through three innings.
"I grew up a Gator fan. I was born in Jacksonville and always followed the Gators. I've been a huge fan of them. I've watched it feels like every sports game they've had growing up. Knowing that my name's in one of the books is a really great feeling,” Young said. “I actually got a message from Tim Olson yesterday. That meant a lot, just hearing from him and talking to him for a little bit. It was a cool feeling and it's great to know. It's a really good feeling."
The effort to keep FAMU (0-11) scoreless started with second-year pitcher Hunter Barco, who had a rather short day on the mound.
The Jacksonville native pitched 5.0 innings, allowing just two hits to the Rattlers on 80 pitches while striking out nine batters. It was another sign of Barco’s return to form, which began in last weekend’s sweep of Samford University, said O’Sullivan.
“I thought last week he was really sharp. I think a couple balls got in the air for home runs, but when you look at the video — his command was really good last weekend,” O’Sullivan said. “I actually think he pitched a little better last weekend than he did today. The last two starts are what we are hoping and expect from him. He’s pitched really, really well the last two weekends.”
Timmy Manning replaced Barco in the sixth inning and kept the Rattlers scoreless before O’Sullivan called on Jordan Carrion, Chrisian Scott and finally Franco Aleman in that order to close out UF’s victory.
Before his record-breaking moment, Young would be the first Gator to come across the plate after reaching first base on a fielding error by the Rattlers in the first inning, one of two errors on the afternoon for the visitors, before scoring on Jud Fabian’s home run to left field.
Nathan Hickey scored an unearned run to give Florida a 3-0 lead on four hits after one inning.
Despite two outs, the Gators managed to score in the second inning as well even after Josh Rivera and Fabian struck out.
Hickey scored both Young, who was hit by a pitch, and Cory Acton, who had been walked, on a double, extending Florida’s lead to 5-0. UF tacked on two more runs in the third and added one more for good measure in the fifth, subsequently securing the sweep and putting the focus on a superstitious topic: Young’s streak.
“To have that level of focus and determination day in and day out just speaks volumes about what he’s all about. I think there’s only six other guys in SEC history that have had longer hitting streaks,” O’Sullivan said. “Like I said, it’s a heck of an accomplishment and it wouldn’t surprise me if he goes on a much longer streak at this point now that he broke the record. The guys are behind him. I know it was maybe a questionable call, whether it was a hit or an error, but I firmly believe he would have beat it out if it was fielded cleanly. I don’t think anything was given to him. I had a really good angle at it and I don’t think there was any question that it was a hit.”
Florida returns Tuesday to Florida Ballpark to host Georgia State with first pitch set for 6 p.m.
Note: Young holds the fourth-longest multi-season hitting streak in SEC history, behind Vanderbilt's Ryan Flaherty (36 games in 2006-07) and Warner Jones (32 games in 2003-04), and Mississippi State's Rex Buckner (31 games in 1992-93).
Who: Georgia State at Florida
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM
Online: SEC Network+