Florida baseball takes opener against Georgia in low-scoring game

·4 min read

Both Florida and Georgia struggled to pull away from each other in Game 1 of their weekend series on Friday night. Though the squads combined for 17 hits, they also stranded 15 players on base in total. But an eighth-inning run put the Gators ahead, and they took a 4-3 win in the opener.

Tommy Mace returned to his role as the Friday night starter, and he had an overall solid performance (albeit one that didn’t net a win in the statsheet) despite allowing seven hits. He allowed a single in the first inning but worked clean through the second.

At the bottom of the second, Kendrick Calilao crushed a bomb of Georgia (28-19, 11-14 SEC) over the center-field wall with two outs to give the Gators (34-15, 16-9 SEC) an early lead.

But the Bulldogs managed to respond at the top of the third. Cole Tate led off with a single, and Josh McAllister hit another one to bring the tying run across. With runners at the corners, a sac-fly on the next at-bat gave UGA the lead.

UF wasn’t to be outdone, though. Sterlin Thompson hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the frame, and a Cory Acton sac-bunt advanced him to third. Jacob Young hit an RBI groundout to bring Thompson across and tie the game back up.

Mace got through the fourth relatively unscathed, and though he started the fifth with a pair of flyouts, another single from McAllister followed by a walk put two aboard. Mace couldn’t keep the lead intact, allowing an RBI single from Connor Tate to put Georgia back on top.

Once again, however, Florida answered. With one out in the bottom of the frame, Acton singled, and a double on the subsequent at-bat from Young brought him all the way around from first to score the tying run.

Mace retired the side in order in the sixth, and though UF got two runners on in that inning of a walk and hit-by-pitch, it couldn’t score the go-ahead run. Mace looked like he was going to get through the seventh, but with two outs, he allowed a double to McAllister (his fourth hit of the game) and Kevin O’Sullivan pulled the plug on Mace, who gave up three earned runs and struck out 10 in his 6 and 2/3 innings.

Trey Van Der Weide entered for his 19th appearance of the season (tied for second-most on the team), and he struck out his first batter to end the inning. But Florida’s offense continued to struggle. Acton singled at the bottom of the seventh, but nothing came of it as the other three batters struck out.

Jack Leftwich came in at the top of the eighth inning, and he once again impressed in his new closer role (though it wasn’t a save situation). He retired the Bulldogs lineup in order, and UF came up to bat once again trying to break the tie.

Jud Fabian led off with a flyout, but Georgia reliever Ben Harris put two on with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. After an advance on a flyout and a steal, both of those runners were in scoring position. With two outs, Josh Rivera came up clutch with his only hit of the game, a single to left field, that brought Kris Armstrong across to score the go-ahead run.

UGA had something going in the top of the ninth as a pair of singles Leftwich allowed put runners at first and second. But two-straight strikeouts stopped the rally in its tracks as Leftwich took his seventh win of the season, striking out five in only two innings of work.

With the Game 1 win locked up, UF will try to take the series against the Bulldogs in Game 2 on Saturday, which is set to start at 6:30 p.m. The Gators will hope their strength at home, which has given them a 27-6 record at Florida Ballpark this season, continues in that one.

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Series Preview: No. 9 Florida baseball hosts Georgia Bulldogs this weekend