Florida clinches fifth straight SEC series with Jud Fabian's historic homers

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports

No. 9 Florida clinched its fifth consecutive SEC series behind a historic night from Jud Fabian. 

Fabian became just the fifth player in school history to reach 20 home runs in a season, hitting two for the third Saturday in a row to lead the Gators to a 9-2 win over Georgia. 

"That's not an easy thing to do, to hit 20 home runs in this ballpark," UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan said of Fabian, who had an 0-for-19 slump earlier this year. "A lot of young players, when they have gone through struggles, have a hard time getting themselves through it. And he's been awesome to handle it the way he did. ... It just speaks volumes of the type of player he is." 

Florida (35-15, 17-9 SEC) matched a season high with four homers and totaled double-digit hits (10), while starting pitcher Hunter Barco struck out eight batters in 6.1 innings — one out short of his career high. 

Kendrick Calilao homered for the second straight game, while Josh Rivera followed up his game-winning hit Friday with a two-run shot and a late two-RBI single to provide some insurance. 

UGA (28-20, 11-15 SEC) scored in the second when Corey Collins reached home on a wild pitch and Randon Jernigan hit an RBI single to third base. After giving up four hits and a pair of runs through two, Barco responded the following inning with his first of two 1-2-3 frames and allowed just two hits the rest of the way.

"After the second inning, he was really sharp," O'Sullivan said of Barco. "I don't know maybe earlier in his career if he would have been able to bounce back from that. 

"The thing about tonight was he's been feeling a little bit under the weather for a good part of the week. He just battled through it and gave us his best effort."

Florida’s Jacob Young tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the second with his two-RBI single to center field, plating Calilao and Rivera. UF then hit four homers over the next three innings, with solo shots from Fabian and Calilao in the third and Fabian and Rivera going yard in the fifth. 

Fabian now leads the SEC in home runs this year and joins Matt LaPorta (26, 2005), Ryan Shealy (23, 2002), Brad Wilkerson (23, 1997 and ’98) and Jonathan India (21, 2018) as the only Gators to hit 20 in a season. 

"It's a great feeling," Fabian said of the feat. "To be one of five guys who have 20 homers, it's an extreme honor. I'm one away from tying [Matt] den Dekker with 33 (career homers), so that's my goal."

Florida will go for the series sweep against Georgia on Sunday at 12 p.m. The game will be televised by SEC Network.

"I'm pleased with how we've been playing," O'Sullivan said. "The whole goal is to play your best baseball at the end and continue to improve as the season goes on. I think we've been able to do that. There's a couple things that have sparked our team. 

"No. 1, Tommy [Mace] going back to the Friday night starter. Hunter being really consistent over the last month, Jack's [Leftwich] presence at the back end of the bullpen and the way Jud is swinging the bat recently."