Florida falls 8-2 as Rebels even series

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Christian Scott got the start for Florida against Ole Miss on Friday at Florida Ballpark. He allowed five hits over five innings, two runs, struck out seven and didn't issue a walk.

Third-ranked Ole Miss evened the series against the No. 15 Gators with a 8-2 win Friday at Florida Ballpark. 

UF (17-9, 4-4 SEC) tied the game at 2 with Jud Fabian’s seventh-inning solo shot, ending his 0-for-19 hitless streak. But the Rebels (21-5, 7-1) regained the lead in the eighth on a two-run homer by Jacob Gonzalez, which broke the game open. 

Mississippi loaded the bases in the last inning and added four more runs on two-RBI singles by Peyton Chatagnier and Gonzalez, who had three of the team’s 11 hits. 

Florida reliever Christian Scott got the nod over Jack Leftwich and the two combined for 11 strikeouts, but Mississippi starter Doug Nikhazy outperformed both of them. He tossed a season-high 11 Ks on his own, giving up just two hits, a run and three walks in six frames. Nikhazy and two relievers combined to strike out 18 Gators and allow only three hits. 

“It’s tough," UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said of the loss. "It’s a game of momentum. We just have to be more aggressive early in the count. That’s one way to cut down on strikeouts. Obviously, Jud hits the big home run to tie it up at 2, and then we immediately go strikeout, strikeout.

"We just need to have a couple more good at-bats there and who knows what would have happened. But we had the momentum there and we just weren’t able to keep it."

The Rebels scored in the first on Tim Elko’s two-out single to center field and added a second run the following inning. Calvin Harris singled through the right side to plate Hayden Leatherwood after his double. 

Back-to-back strikeouts from Scott ended the top of the second, and then UF cut the deficit to 2-1 with Kris Armstrong’s two-out RBI single. Scott struck out Elko and Leatherwood swinging to close out the third and fourth, respectively. 

He pitched his second straight 1-2-3 inning in the fifth and ended it with a strikeout for the fourth consecutive frame. The last K marked Scott’s eighth retired batter in a row. 

He set a new career high with seven strikeouts in five innings, allowing five hits, two runs and no walks in his first start since 2019.

"Christian did great," O'Sullivan said. "He did everything we asked him to do. He finished the fourth inning really strong and we had a decision to make there if we were gonna run him back out there for one more. 

"My eyes told me that he looked strong in the fourth. I think he had a strikeout to end the fourth inning. Fastball still had a really good finish to it. We tried to get one more inning out of him and obviously he pitched really good."

Leftwich gave up a season-high six earned runs, five hits and three weeks with four strikeouts in 3.1 innings of relief work, getting replaced by Ryan Cabarcas in the ninth.

"I think we were good for seven innings on the mound and then obviously it got away from us," O'Sullivan said. "But you’re not going to win many games with 18 strikeouts and just three hits. We just gotta do a better job offensively and we need to have the ability to score runs in different ways.

"We gotta run the bases better. There’s a couple guys in our lineup that need to get better in the short game. We gotta be versatile that way and we just haven’t found that yet.”

Saturday

Who: Ole Miss at Florida

When: 1 p.m.

Live stream: SEC Network+

Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM

Pitching matchup: Ole Miss righty Derek Diamond (3-2) vs. UF LHP Hunter Barco (3-2)