Sometimes in baseball, one pitch or one at-bat can change an entire game. That was the case Friday night at McKethan Stadium as the first three innings featured a duel between two Southeastern Conference aces. A 15-pitch at-bat kept the fourth inning alive for No. 5 Florida, and the Gators scored seven runs in the frame on their way to defeat Ole Miss 11-2.
After cruising through the first three innings, reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week James McArthur (3-4) was one pitch from getting out of a bases-loaded jam and keeping the game scoreless through four. However, Florida’s Christian Hicks fouled off pitch after pitch before eventually drawing a walk to score the game’s first run. The at-bat turned the momentum towards the Gators (33-13, 14-8 SEC), and the home team put together their big inning to help claim the series opener over the Rebels (29-18, 11-11 SEC).
Sophomore DJ Miller delivered a two-run pinch-hit homer to prevent the Rebels’ second shutout of the season. Miller’s blast was his second of the season, and Michael Fitzsimmons provided a pinch hit as well in the final inning before crossing the dish on Miller’s home run. Will Golsan, Cooper Johnson and Grae Kessinger each added singles, while Tate Blackman and Colby Bortles increased their reached base streaks to 13 games.
Florida starting pitcher Alex Faedo (7-1) pitched six scoreless innings, allowing only three hits, to earn the win. Dalton Guthrie went 3-for-4 at the plate, and Ryan Larson provided a grand slam to break open the game for the Gators.
The two aces matched one another pitch for pitch to start the game. McAthur retired the first 10 hitters he faced, while Faedo sent down the first eight Rebels. In the top of the fourth, a Blackman walk and a Golsan single put the first runner in scoring position for either team. Blackman advanced to third on a flyout by Bortles, and Golsan later stole second. However, the pair of Rebels were left stranded as Faedo worked out of the jam.
In the bottom of the fourth, McArthur was one strike away from throwing another scoreless inning. However, the Gators put together a big inning. With the bases loaded and two outs in the frame, Hicks and McArthur battled through a 15-pitch at-bat. Down to his final strike, Hicks fought off multiple pitches before bringing in a run on a walk. Larson followed with a grand slam, and three more hits brought in two additional runs to end McArthur’s day. Connor Green came in from the bullpen, but on the first batter he faced, Johnson caught a runner stealing to end the inning. The 15-pitch at-bat became the momentum swinger as Florida used it to plate the first of seven runs in the frame.
The Gators added two runs in the fifth before Green and Will Stokes combined to toss a scoreless sixth. Green recorded the first two outs before Florida put a pair of runners in scoring position. Coming on in relief of his teammate, Stokes forced a flyout to end the threat without a run crossing the plate.
In the seventh, Nelson Maldonado homered to give Florida double digits in the run column. A sacrifice fly added another run one inning later. In the ninth, Fitzsimmons started the inning with a pinch-hit single before Miller brought him home on a two-run blast around the left field foul pole. Nonetheless, the deficit was too great to overcome as the Gators finished the game.
Ole Miss will look to even the series tomorrow evening as freshman Ryan Rolison (6-2, 1.84 ERA) goes up against Florida’s Brady Singer (5-3, 2.09 ERA). First pitch is slated for 5:30 p.m. CT. David Kellum and Keith Kessinger have the call on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network, while the game can also be seen on SECN+ and the Watch ESPN app.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports