Jacob Young scores winning run as No. 15 Florida Gators outlast Jacksonville 8-7

Garry Smits
Florida Times-Union
University of Florida designated hitter Kirby McMullen is tagged out by Jacksonville University second baseman Jesus Pacheco on an attempted steal in the first inning of Tuesday's game at JU's John Sessions Stadium.

University of Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan was determined to keep changing pitchers on Tuesday at Jacksonville University until he found someone who would throw strikes. 

He eventually used seven and two of his last three, graduate senior Trey Van Der Weide and freshman Ryan Cabarcas, found the plate enough to hold JU scoreless over the final four innings in an 8-7 victory on at John Sessions Stadium. 

The 15th-ranked Gators (26-11) scored the winning run in the top of the seventh when Jacob Young walked, went to third on Nathan Hickey’s single and scored when Kirby McMullen hit a high chopper to Dakota Julylia at short. 

Julylia, charging hard, had only one play, going to to first to get McMullen, and Young raced home. 

JU (7-23) was playing for the first time in six days because of schedule changes within the ASUN due to its COVID-19 protocols. 

“It was good to get on the field again,” coach Chris Hayes said. 

Van Der Weide and Cabarcas combined for 4.1 innings of one-hit ball, five strikeouts and only one walk after the first four Gator hurlers gave up six walks and hit three batters. 

Starter Timmy Manning, a freshman, struck out five in only 2.2 innings but gave up a three-run double to Duncan Hunter in the first and O’Sullivan pulled him after he walked two JU batters with two outs in the third. 

After that, Ben Specht, Brandon Sproat and David Luethje combined for four walks and two hit batters in 1.2 innings before Van Der Weid (1-1) finally came in and struck out three, allowed only one hit and hit a batter in 2.2 innings. 

Jacksonville University's Duncan Hunter belts a three-run double in the first inning of Tuesday's game against the Florida Gators at John Sessions Stadium.

Cabarcas didn't give up a hit in 1.2 innings. After he walked Trace Burchard with two out in the ninth, O’Sullivan brought in freshman Jordan Carrion, who needed only one pitch to end the game, inducing pinch-hitter Elias Flowers to ground out to Cory Acton at second. 

“The freshman [Manning] started out a little shaky but you can see he’s got good stuff,” O’Sullivan said. “The middle guys didn’t do their job. Trey really slowed things down for us and kept us in the game. We needed to get Cabarcbas going there. I wish we had given him a chance to finish the game. We’re going to need him.” 

Jack Carver (1-2), the fourth of five JU pitchers, took the loss. 

The three-hour, 44-minute game saw the two pitching staffs issue 14 walks, hit five batters and throw three wild pitches. 

After the two teams collected five doubles between them and Sterlin Thompson slammed his third home run of the season in the second inning, the Gators had to manufacture the game-winner. 

“First and third, one out and you’re just hoping for a hard-hit ball at one of your infielders,” Hayes said. “Give Kirby credit … it was hit just soft enough and he found a way to get a guy in. He’s an RBI machine. It’s what he does.” 

Following Hunter’s bases-clearing double and Thompson’s homer, Florida took a 5-3 lead in the third on an RBI single by Colby Halter and a two-run single by Cory Acton. 

JU tied in the fourth on Jesus Pacheco’s two-run double. UF went back on top in the fifth on opposite-field doubles by Halter, Acton and Nathan Hickey but the Dolphins tied the game at 7-7 in the home half of the fifth without benefit of a hit, scoring on four walks and a hit batter. 

The Dolphins scored their last four runs on only one hit.

The bottom three batters in the UF order, Halter, Acton and catcher Cal Greenfield, combined to go 5-for-13 with four RBI. In addition, the three First Coast products who started for the Gators, Young (Ponte Vedra), Hickey (Providence) and Halter (Bishop Kenny) had five hits and drove in three runs. 

Florida is 3-1 against the Dolphins but two of the games were decided by one run, including a 10-9 loss to JU in Gainesville. 

“They’re a lot better than their record,” said Halter, who is 5-for-10 with six RBI in two games in his hometown this season, one each at JU and the University of North Florida. “They always give us a fight.” 

Both teams have big conference road sets beginning on Friday, Florida at Auburn and JU at UNF.