Florida baseball's power outage is one of a distressing length and severity, but even on the Gators' most hopeless days at the plate, Florida's hurlers keep them in games. Sometimes — as on Sunday, when Mike Zunino clouted his 14th home run of the season in the bottom of the eighth to propel Florida to a 2-1 win over Mississippi State that gave the Gators a series win over the Bulldogs — that is enough to allow one big hit to carry the day.
Zunino's homer was one of just three Florida hits on the day: Vickash Ramjit had one, and the Gators' other run, scored on an RBI groundout from Preston Tucker, and Brian Johnson added another. But it came at the right time, with extra innings looming after 4.5 frames of 1-1 ball, and rescued the Gators from a demise that would have knocked them entirely out of contention for the SEC's regular season title.
Florida's bullpen deserves most of the credit for that. After another erratic start from Karsten Whitson (3.1 innings pitched, two hits, one earned run on a homer by Hunter Renfroe, five walks, four strikeouts, and a hit by pitch), the Gators — in order: Daniel Gibson, Greg Larson, Bobby Poyner, Steven Rodriguez, and Austin Maddox — tossed 5.2 innings of one-hit relief, striking out six (three by Rodriguez, two by Maddox) and allowing just five baserunners.
That bullpen, stellar all year, has helped make up for the inconsistency from Florida's theoretically superb starting three-man rotation, which has been taxed by injury. But the Gators' offensive output has been anemic enough to seriously tax the staff, and if Zunino et al. can't build on this Sunday escape and start connecting again, Florida may not be long for the postseason.