No. 9 Florida tops UGA in opener behind Tommy Mace, Josh Rivera
Making his first Friday night start in more than a month, Tommy Mace delivered on the mound in the Gators' final series at Florida Ballpark.
He kept No. 9 Florida in a game that was tied for five straight innings before Josh Rivera’s two-out RBI single in the eighth scored the game-winning run.
Mace posted his third double-digit strikeout (10) performance this season — and first in almost two months — to help UF take the opener against Georgia, 4-3.
“I thought he did really well, probably as good as he’s thrown it all year long,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said of Mace. “It was a really quality win. ... [Rivera] came through for us at probably the most pivotal time in the game."
Mace gave up seven hits, three runs and two walks in 6.2 innings. It was his first time starting on Friday night since Florida’s 6-4 loss at Tennessee on April 9.
“I didn’t even really think of it, to be honest,” Mace said of the lineup change. “Sully thought I was throwing well, so it was good to be back on Friday. My command of the fastball set up my cutter.”
Kendrick Calilao’s second-inning homer to straightaway center, his third of the year, put Florida (34-15, 16-9 SEC) in front 1-0. Georgia (28-19, 11-14) scored two runs in the third with a left-field single from Joshua McAllister and Garrett Blaylock’s sacrifice fly to plate Ben Anderson, but UF tied it up in the bottom of the inning.
Sterlin Thompson hit a leadoff double and then scored on Jacob Young’s groundout. The SEC East rivals traded runs in the fifth, as UGA’s Connor Tate hit an RBI single and Young doubled to left center to bring home Cory Acton.
That was the second consecutive inning Florida left runners stranded on third, and the first came with Rivera at the plate. He redeemed himself late with his clutch hit to score Kris Armstrong and break the tie.
“It felt great, honestly,” Rivera said. “It was a big at-bat for me personally because I stranded a runner out there in the previous inning. So it was great to get that hit finally and have one fall for me to give us the lead. The crowd was going crazy. It was just an unbelievable experience.”
UF reliever Jack Leftwich (7-3) took over in the eighth and tossed a pair of scoreless frames with five Ks and two hits. Georgia starter Liam Sullivan went five innings, striking out seven batters with seven hits and three runs allowed.
“He’s just really confident right now,” O’Sullivan said of Leftwich. “He’s executing pitches at a high level. He’s slowing the game down and it’s obvious he’s having a lot of fun. Just really, really pleased with how he’s been able to solidify our bullpen on the back end.”
The Gators will go for their fifth SEC series win in a row Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and will stream live on SEC Network+.