GAINESVILLE, FLA.— Top-ranked Florida scored a pair of runs in the ninth to rally past Georgia 7-6 Friday in front of a McKethan Stadium crowd of 5,279.
Florida (40-11, 19-6 SEC) grabbed a 2-0 lead in the third when designated hitter Nelson Maldonado provided a two-run single. In the fourth, senior JJ Schwarz made it 3-0 with a solo home run, his 11th of the year. In the first, the Bulldog defense threw out Maldonado at home following a double by Johnathan India. Freshman C.J. Smith grabbed the ball off the left centerfield wall, threw to shortstop Cam Shepherd who fired a strike home to Mason Meadows. Staked to a 3-0 lead through five innings with junior right-hander Brady Singer on the mound, Florida looked to be in control. Singer entered the game with a 10-1 mark and 2.33 ERA, but the Bulldogs responded in the sixth.
Georgia (34-15, 15-10 SEC) took a 5-3 lead highlighted by a grand slam by junior LJ Talley off Singer. The inning began with Aaron Schunk extending his hitting streak to a career-best 16 games. Senior Keegan McGovern followed with his second double of the night. After Michael Curry went down swinging, Adam Sasser drew a walk. Cam Shepherd bounced one to first baseman Keenan Bell who dropped it and everybody was safe as Schunk scored. Talley followed with his fifth home run of the year and first career grand slam. The Bulldogs now have tied the school record for grand slams in a season with six, matching the 1982, ’85 and 2001 clubs.
Florida answered in its half of the sixth, tying the game on a two-run double by Schwarz that ended senior Chase Adkins night. Neither starting pitcher factored in the decision. Singer allowed eight hits, five runs (only one earned) with six strikeouts in seven innings while Adkins surrendered five runs on seven hits in 5.1 innings.
Sophomore Tony Locey provided 2.1 scoreless frames, and the Bulldogs would take a 6-5 lead in the ninth, courtesy of a two-out, bases-loaded passed ball by Schwarz. The miscue allowed Smith (3-for-4) to score as he led off the ninth with his third hit of the night, took second when Tucker Maxwell was hit by a pitch and the Gators opted to intentionally walk McGovern.
However, the Gators would respond again in their half of the inning. Keenan Bell and Nick Horvath lined base hits off Zac Kristofak in the ninth and then Deacon Liput was hit by a pitch trying to bunt to load the bases. Georgia looked to Schunk. He got Maldonado to fly out to center for a game-tying sacrifice fly. After an intentional walk to India, Will Dalton lifted a ball to centerfield that Maxwell didn’t catch, and it was deep enough anyway to allow Horvath to score the game-winning run and was credited with a sacrifice fly and RBI. Michael Byrne got the win to move to 2-0 while Kristofak dropped to 3-2.
“It was a tough way to lose after we fought back twice to get a lead and had every opportunity to win but we didn’t get it done in the ninth,” said Georgia’s Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin. “We have to come out Saturday and play better because we let this one slip away. When you play a really good team, especially the number one team in the country, you have to fight, battle and play really well the whole game.”
The series continues Saturday with first pitch at 1:02 p.m. The game will be televised by the SEC Network and be available on the Georgia Sports Network from IMG.