Gators hand No. 3 Ole Miss its first SEC loss in series opener

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Florida's Jacob Young reached on a double in the first inning Thursday against Ole Miss. Young scored on Nathan Hickey's double.

No. 15 Florida bounced back from a sweep at South Carolina with a series-opening win Thursday, handing No. 3 Ole Miss its first loss in conference play. 

With reliever Franco Aleman starting in place of Tommy Mace, the two pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts and eight scoreless innings while Jacob Young had two huge hits in UF’s 4-1 victory at Florida Ballpark. 

Gators coach Kevin O'Sullivan decided to change up his pitching rotation on the drive home from Columbia, S.C.

"I slept on it Sunday night, made a decision and they went out and pitched great tonight," O'Sullivan said. "This thing was not a knee-jerk reaction and I’m not going to make it a bigger story than it is."

Young started with a leadoff double and Nathan Hickey matched him to put the Gators (17-8, 4-3 SEC) up 1-0 in the first. Ole Miss (20-5, 6-1 SEC) tied the game two innings later when Hayden Leatherwood scored on a sac fly following his leadoff single.

Aleman retired the Rebels’ first three batters and struck out three in four innings pitched, allowing three hits and an unearned run. UF regained the lead in the fourth with Colby Halter’s single to right field, plating Jordan Butler. 

Mace sat Ole Miss down in order with a pair of strikeouts when he took over for Aleman in the fifth, his first of three 1-2-3 innings. Cal Greenfield also replaced Mac Guscette behind the plate after an Aleman pitch hit Guscette above his left wrist. 

In his first relief effort since 2018, Mace pitched five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and just one hit. 

"That was the plan," O'Sullivan said. "Franco to give us four, Tommy to go five and it worked out really well. Tommy was going to do the exact same routine he always does. He took it great. He’s a great teammate."

Ole Miss starter Gunner Hoglund, who leads the nation in strikeouts, finished with a season-low five and gave up three hits, three walks and two runs in six innings pitched.

The Gators added two insurance runs in the eighth when Young tripled home Jordan Carrion and Hickey brought in Young with a groundout. 

“After last week we wanted to right the ship. We didn’t play well, we didn’t play how we should. I think everybody kind of came in looking to prove something and I thought we came out well," said Young, who hit his first triple of the season. "Franco threw amazing, we had some good swings and then Tommy came in and kind of shut the door. It was a really good feeling.”

Friday

Who: No. 3 Ole Miss vs. No. 15 Florida

When: 6:30 p.m.

Where: Florida Ballpark

Live stream: SEC Network+

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM

Pitching matchup: Ole Miss lefty Doug Nikhazy (2-1) vs. UF RHP Christian Scott (0-1)

Saturday's game: 1 p.m.