There's been a trend this season for Florida. Against teams you think the Gators should beat mercilessly, the games have actually been quite close. As proof: the three-game sets against William & Mary and FGCU. But as with those teams, the No. 1 Florida Gators (20-1) found a way to win against the scrappy Samford Bulldogs (13-8). The Gators finished their season-long ten game homestand at a perfect 10-0 and have pushed their school-record winning streak to 18 straight.
Freshman Johnny Magliozzi (2-0) started his second career game for the Gators and pitched very well. On a pre-determined pitch count, Magliozzi worked four innings allowing one run on three hits while striking out a career-high six. Samford starter Lex Rutledge (0-2) (I love the name by the way) only pitched 1 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on six hits and striking out one. Austin Maddox rebounded from allowing his first run in 20 innings by pitching a perfect ninth, striking out one, and picking up his seventh save. Preston Tucker, fresh off his SEC Player of the Week Award, went 2-for-4 while scoring a run. Mike Zunino also went 2-for-4 with two RBI.
More recap after the jump.
Samford struck first in the first inning when Brandon Miller hit a two-out, RBI single that scored Zeth Stone (this name definitely beats Lex Rutledge's for my favorite so far this season) and put the Bulldogs up 1-0. The RBI was Miller's team-leading 30th of the season.
But Florida returned the favor in the bottom of the frame when Zunino came through with one of his RBI, a single through the left side to plate Daniel Pigott to tie the game at 1.
The second inning made the difference for Florida as the Gators' offense cranked up, scoring two on three hits. Justin Shafer led off the inning with an infield single and then stole second for his first career steal to move into scoring position. Josh Tobias took advantage of the situation with an RBI single up the middle to give Florida the lead. Nolan Fontana hit a single to right to put runners at first and second with one out. Pigott then sacrificed Tobias to third. A wild pitch by new Bulldogs pitcher Joseph Burns scored Tobias to give UF a 3-1 lead.
Samford cut into the lead in the fifth when Brad Moss hit an RBI double to center to put the score at 3-2. Florida answered in the bottom of the inning with a Taylor Gushue RBI single scoring Tucker. Tucker had doubled to start the inning off. Gushue's single put the Gators up by two runs again, 4-2.
The Bulldogs and Gators once again exchanged runs in the seventh. In the top of the inning, Samford took advantage of Shafer dropping a fly ball with two outs with an RBI single by Moss, his second RBI of the night. But Florida once again answered in the bottom of the seventh with an RBI double by Zunino, scoring Pigott to put the game at it's final score, of 5-3.
UF will now take their 18 game winning streak on the road for a couple of tough contests. Florida will play three ranked teams away from home in No. 6 South Carolina in a three game set in Columbia, No. 5 Florida State in a midweek game in Jacksonville, and No. 26 Ole Miss in Oxford for three the following weekend. The eight game road trip will definitely test the Gators mettle. We will see where the Gators really rank among college baseball's elite. It will also test the composure of the numerous freshman the Florida throws onto the field on any given game day.
Florida's tough road trip starts Thursday against the Gamecocks (16-4, 0-3). South Carolina is coming off of the wrong end of a sweep against No. 2 Kentucky, so Florida will surely get the Gamecocks best shot. Thursday's game starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be featured on ESPNU and on WRUF SportsRadio 850.