Updated: Apr 8
by Matt Sefcovic (@MattSefcovic)
After being swept by South Carolina the previous week, Florida battled back to take the series against Ole Miss in Gainesville, winning two of three against the number three team in the country. Gators Coach Kevin O’Sullivan sent a message to his team, changing the weekend rotation going into one of the toughest series on their schedule. Message received.
On Thursday night, it was all Franco Aleman (W, 1-1) and Tommy Mace (S, 1), who allowed just four hits, as Florida took game one 4-1. Aleman, who started his first game of the year, shut down Ole Miss for the first four innings, allowing three hits and one run (unearned) before turning things over to Mace. From the fifth inning on, the Rebels only recorded one more hit as Mace struck out 7 and never gave Ole Miss an opportunity to get back in it. At the plate, Jacob Young and freshman Jordan Carrion led the Gators with two hits apiece. Young had a double, a triple, and one RBI. Gunnar Hoglund (L, 3-1) picked up his first loss of the season, but only gave up one run on six hits through six innings.
The game on Friday night was fairly quiet with only three total runs scored going into the 7th inning. Then the bats woke up. Jud Fabian homered for the Gators to tie the game at 2-2 but it was all Ole Miss after that. The Rebels tacked on two runs in the 8th inning and four runs in the 9th to win game two, 8-2.
Freshman Jacob Gonzalez tallied three hits, a home run, and four RBI. Kevin Graham also had a multi-hit game, with two, as Peyton Chatagnier added two RBI. The Ole Miss pitching staff put together an impressive afternoon, striking out 18 batters and allowing just three hits the entire game. Doug Nikhazy started for the Rebels, going 6.0 innings and striking out 11, giving up one unearned run. Drew McDaniel (W, 4-0) and Taylor Broadway (S, 7) finished the final three innings, striking out an additional seven batters. After being relegated to the bullpen, Jack Leftwich (L, 4-2) took the loss, allowing six runs in 3.1 innings of work.
The rubber match took place on Saturday afternoon, and we could not have asked for much more from two teams ranked in the top 16, as Florida took the game 6-5, winning the series. Hunter Barco (W, 4-2) did just enough to keep the Rebels bats at bay and give his offense an opportunity to take the series. He allowed six hits and three runs (two earned) through five innings before letting the bullpen take over. The Gators bullpen would give up an additional two runs in the final four innings. At the plate, the Gators were led by Young and Nathan Hickey, both with two hits apiece. Hickey and Carrion both homered as Hickey added a game leading 3 RBI. The Rebels also had a few solid performances at the plate as Kevin Graham and Tim Elko each added three hits on the day.
The Rebels will have their work cut out for them after losing their first series in the SEC. Next weekend they return home to host Arkansas, the current number two team in the country before traveling to Starkville to take on in-state rival #4 Mississippi State. The Gators will head to Knoxville next weekend to take on Tennessee followed by a mid-week matchup against Florida State, a team that beat the Gators 10-2 earlier this season in Tallahassee.