No matter what has been going on in Florida’s season at various points, the Gators have always risen to the occasion against rival Florida State.
That continued Tuesday night in Tallahassee, Fla., as the No. 12 Gators swatted their way past the Seminoles for a 10-7 win to complete a three-game season sweep.
Florida (22-11) had previously earned a 1-0 win over the Seminoles (21-14) in Gainesville on March 14 and a 4-1 win in the teams’ neutral-site showdown in Jacksonville on March 28.
The win Tuesday night makes the Gators 15-3 against the Seminoles in the last 18 meetings and comes at the start of a pivotal road stretch as they now head to Nashville for a three-game series at Vanderbilt starting Thursday.
“It’s great to sweep Florida State in any year. This one was done a little different than the first two. Obviously we’ll take it and get on the bus and go home and get ready for Vanderbilt,” Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan said afterward.
Florida hasn’t been carried by its hitting often this season, but that was the story Tuesday night.
The Gators’ 10 hits were actually less than Florida State’s 12, but they came in the right moments.
Christian Hicks finished 3-for-5 with a double, 4 RBIs and a run, Ryan Larson went 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and 2 runs, Austin Langworthy returned to the lineup and went 2-for-4 with 2 runs, Jonathan India was 1-for-2 with a double, 3 RBIs and a run and Deacon Liput was 1-for-4 with 2 RBIs.
After Florida State struck first with 2 runs in the bottom of the first, Florida scored 4 in the second to take the lead.
Larson got it started with a bases-loaded RBI single, Hicks followed with a 2-run single and Liput plated the other run on an RBI groundout.
The game was later tied 4-4 before the Gators broke it open with 6 runs in the 4th.
Langworthy, who has been out of the lineup since March 11 after breaking a bone in his hand, opened that frame with a single, Larson doubled, Hicks followed with a 2-run double and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Liput. The Gators then loaded the bases on a JJ Schwarz double and walks by Mike Rivera and Nelson Maldonado before India cleared the bags with a 3-run double to deep centerfield to make it a 10-4 game.
Florida State got a few runs back, but it couldn’t overcome that big deficit. Langworthy eventually closed out the game, getting Cal Raleigh on a deep fly out to left to end it.
There were some ugly pitching lines for both sides. Tyler Dyson lasted only 1 2/3 innings in the start for Florida, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 3 hits and a walk. Kirby McMullen gave up 4 hits and 2 runs over 1 1/3 innings. And Langworthy gave up 2 runs on 3 hits in 2 2/3 innings before closing it out.
In between, Nick Horvath (1-0) was the most effective on the mound for the Gators, tossing 3 1/3 scoreless innings while yielding only 1 hit and 2 walks with 3 strikeouts to earn the win. He was particularly clutch in the bottom of that fourth inning, taking the mound with the bases loaded and no outs and striking out the next three batters to escape the jam.
“I thought we swung the bats good tonight against a really good pitcher,” O’Sullivan said. “Deacon played really good defense, made a bunch of plays at second, and Dalton hit the ball well tonight. Christian Hicks was outstanding, he had four RBIs and three hits. Ryan Larson had a couple more hits and Austin Langworthy, his first day back, got on base three times and had two hits. The double by India with the bases loaded was huge for us. Nick Horvath did a great job coming in with the bases loaded and nobody out, didn’t let them score.”
The Gators came into the day ranked 249th nationally with a .245 batting average, but the offense just might be heating up while averaging 10.5 hits over the last four games.
Larson, in particular, continued his personal tear and is now 10-for-19 over his last four games. Hicks’ 4 RBI was the most by any Florida player this season.
And India, Schwarz and Liput all contributed in key spots after being suspended Saturday against Tennessee for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Florida will look to build off that now in its all-important three-game series at Vanderbilt, coming into the week with a 6-6 SEC mark.
“We’re getting there,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s a long season. … The approaches are getting better. But once again, we had bases loaded there with one out and we struck out on three pitches. I don’t want to nitpick, but in a game like this, if they have one more baserunner get on then we have the tying run at the plate. But it’s a win. It wasn’t pretty on either side, starting pitching-wise and the relief pitching early on, but we were able to have a four-run inning and a six-run inning.”