Have yourself a night, JJ Schwarz.
After an hour rain delay in McKethan Stadium, the Gators proceeded to destroy Stetson, 22-2, thanks in large part to the bat of the freshman catcher Schwarz. He finished the game with a school record four home runs, beating out teammate Dalton Guthrie, who finished with “only” two, while Harrison Bader took the bronze medal in the home run derby with one of his own. Those four homers by Schwarz also tied for the SEC record, which was set back in 1982 by Kentucky’s Bill Sandry. On top of the… shall I say it again?… four homers, Schwarz also racked up ten RBI’s and five hits during his six at-bats.
Florida’s pitching wasn’t too shabby either, only allowing nine hits in the whole game and only two runs, both in the second inning. And the pitching continues to be backed by a stellar defense that plays error free baseball, which is something that will hopefully continue throughout the rest of the season.
But this win was trivial in the grand scheme of things. Florida’s got some games coming up that mean a lot more than this one.
With Florida (6-6 SEC) sitting at 3rd place in the SEC East, four games behind first place Vanderbilt (10-2 SEC), this game against Stetson hopefully primed the Gators for the upcoming must-win series against South Carolina (22-11, 6-6 SEC) starting this Friday. South Carolina is a team that’s historically given Florida a lot of trouble, so it’d be nice to return the favor to some capacity, but this series is about much more than payback. Florida has fallen from the top five in the national rankings all the way down to number ten- which is on the outside looking in in terms of hosting the NCAA Tournament all the way through the College World Series- and has really struggled in SEC play so far, even with the return of power hitter Pete Alonso. Luckily, the Gators do get the Gamecocks in Gainesville.
The South Carolina series is one of two remaining series (plus the rubber match with FSU) the Gators have left on their schedule to impress the Selection Committee, the second of which is Vanderbilt. Again, the goal is to finish in the top eight, so that the Gators will be playing home games all the way up to the College World Series. Taking the series this weekend would certainly help them achieve that goal.