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Florida scores five runs in extra innings to beat Miami

44 days ago
Florida Athletics
Photo: Florida Athletics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - One strike. That's how close the Gators were to having Miami even this weekend's series, and needing a win in a Sunday rubber match to take a sixth consecutive regular-season series from their in-state rival. That did not matter to sophomore outfielder Jud Fabian, who smacked an RBI double to tie the game, 2-2, in the ninth inning. The floodgates opened in the 10th inning following senior Kirby McMullen's go-ahead solo home run, as Florida rolled to a 7-4 comeback victory.

The Gators' rally in the ninth began with a leadoff single from sophomore Kris Armstrong. A sacrifice bunt moved Armstrong into scoring position, but a strikeout brought Florida's undefeated start down to its final out.

Prior to his at bat in the ninth inning, Fabian was just one for eight in the series. Fabian fouled off a pair of 0-2 pitches and took a ball to make it a 1-2 count, after which he sent the game-tying shot down the third base line.

Two pitches into the 10th inning, McMullen blasted a no-doubt home run over the left field wall - the second of his career, and first since Feb. 27, 2019 against UCF - to put the Gators in front. A pair of walks, followed by three consecutive singles and a throwing error gave Florida a quartet of insurance runs.

Florida has won its last three games in extra innings, marking the second time in school history it has played and won three straight games in extra innings. The only other occurrence in program history was in 2014, when three games against Connecticut went to extras, with Florida winning 1-0 (March 7), 2-1 (March 8), and 6-5 (March 9) in Gainesville. The Gators last played at least three extra innings games in a season in 2017 (they played seven, going 3-4 in those games).

The win also takes Florida to 7-0 for just the third time in head coach Kevin O'Sullivan's 13 seasons, with the other two starts coming in 2011 and 2018.

Before the extra frame, Florida and Miami were locked in another pitching duel. Junior Jack Leftwich tossed six innings and allowed just one run, striking out six - two of which came in the sixth inning, with the potential tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.

Sophomore Nick Pogue continued his hot week with a scoreless, three-strikeout eighth inning. Fellow sophomore Ben Specht picked up the win for the second straight night, as he tossed the final two innings and smacked an RBI single amid UF's five-run 10th inning.

STANDOUT STAT: 2-42. Florida's record when trailing after eight innings for the 2018 and 2019 seasons, just to put into perspective the long odds the Gators faced before they ran away with the win in extras.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Jacob Young. Fabian's and McMullen's heroics make for obvious choices, but Coach O'Sullivan credited Young with getting the Gators going offensively early in the game. Young finished two of five Saturday night, and he's hitting a team-high .500 (five of 10) for the series.

FROM COACH KEVIN O'SULLIVAN: On the fight of the team tonight... "It started with Jack (Leftwich) on the mound. Thought he was really, really good tonight. Had a couple intentional walks and strategically tried to pitch around a couple guys. Both starters were really good tonight. We did just enough offensively to keep ourselves in. It was a weird game. We're down to our last strike, and their closer, who's been really good for them, hangs a slider and Jud (Fabian) sneaks it in down the third-base line there. Then Kirby (McMullen) comes up with the big home run, and we scored some runs in the 10th. We're awfully excited that we had a chance to win a series against a very good Miami team. Looking forward to getting back out here tomorrow."

On the offense tonight... "Beginning of the game, I thought Jacob Young had a really, really good first three at bats and got us going offensively. We've got a couple guys who are struggling. We still have a long way to go. We made a ton of mistakes tonight. We missed three or four signs. We still struck out too many times. But to come down here early in the year and be able to figure out a way (to win) against some really good pitching to finish this off is obviously good for the Gators."

SERIES UPDATES: The Gators have won 14 of the last 17 games in the series. Florida's all-time record against Miami improves to 126-130-1, and it is now 48-80 against the Hurricanes on the road.

UP NEXT: Freshman left-hander Hunter Barco (0-0, 0.00 ERA) is expected to face Miami sophomore Slade Cecconi (1-0, 1.50 ERA) in the final game of the series Sunday, which will begin at 1 p.m., with live streaming from ACC Network Extra.