Through 27 innings of baseball in 2014, FSU could only muster two runs against Florida- a testament to the Gators’ pitching staff.
This year, however, the Seminoles needed just one game to quadruple last season’s run total in the rivalry. Normally, that’s a recipe for disaster. But last night, it was a recipe for entertainment- because the Gators’ lineup simply outclassed their FSU counterparts to the tune of 14 runs and 16 hits, and Florida wound up on the good side of a lopsided 14-8 win. It’s the fifth consecutive time Florida has beaten FSU on the baseball diamond, the longest Gator winning streak in the series since the 1980’s.
But enough about history, and streaks. This win was just the latest of many impressive ones Florida has collected this year.
The Gators are now 19-3 on the year, and the only three losses came against teams they would beat in ensuing games- Miami, UCF and Tennessee. Resume-wise, Florida already owns series wins over Miami, Stony Brook and Tennessee, and now they’ve shown they can win the big midweek game, too, something the NCAA Tournament Committee looks at more than you’d think when it comes to seeding teams. Florida’s non conference schedule was pretty light, but now that the brunt of their schedule is approaching, it’s nice to see them be able to continue picking up wins in all types of situations- even when things don’t look good. Like tonight.
Florida pitcher Eric Hanhold promptly gave up hits to the first two FSU batters he faced to begin the game; both runners eventually scored. And just like that, Florida was down 2-0 before they even came to bat. But Richie Martin was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the first- and the floodgates opened. Harrison Bader rocketed one to deep center for a triple, scoring Martin, Josh Tobias singled Bader home, Mike Rivera blasted one into the gap to score Tobias, John Sternagle walked and then Jeremy Vasquez smacked a laser down the first base line to score Rivera and Sternagle. The carnage lasted over half an hour, and by the time the featherless Tribe finally staggered off the field, they had surrendered five runs and found themselves down three runs- a deficit they would never overcome.
See, that’s clutch hitting. It’s easy to explode for a bunch of runs against an also-ran like Rhode Island or Maine, but to do so with the pressure that comes with playing in a Florida-FSU game- after being down two runs before you step up the plate for the first time- is a whole different animal. This was a different type of test for Florida, and they passed it.
Anyway, from that point on, the teams went back and forth, trading punches in the form of multi-run innings (and highlighted by a crazy double steal), until JJ Schwarz landed the haymaker:
JJ Schwarz crushes one out of the park and Florida has busted the game wide open. They now lead FSU 14-7 https://t.co/f1tECCYmQq
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) March 18, 2015
And that was that.
Now we come to the point where I try to nitpick and find something to complain about (because it’s early in the season and nobody is playing perfect ball at this point), but I’ve got nothing here. I can’t really bring myself to whine about the eight runs and 14 hits FSU tallied; A) the Noles’ lineup is more explosive than it was a year ago, B) Eric Hanhold is maybe Florida’s fourth best option as a starting pitcher, and forced the bullpen to do a lot more work than any bullpen is supposed to, and C) Florida’s offense did more than enough to render FSU’s offense irrelevant. And as an addendum to C), do remember that Florida’s offense is missing its best source of power, Pete Alonso, who should be back for Florida’s series against Alabama next weekend.
This Gator team continues chugging right along. They’ve given a legitimate reason to believe that this train is not to be derailed, and is bound for a much longer and more enjoyable ride this summer- maybe one that leads to Omaha. This ride is far from over, but if what we’ve seen so far is any indication of what’s to come, it could be the most exciting one the Gator Nation has ever seen.