Florida takes advantage of Columbia pitching, earns weekend sweep

By Graham Hall Correspondent
Sunday, March 05, 2017 5:43 PM

Looking to complete the sweep against Columbia, the Florida baseball team faced additional adversity Sunday afternoon.

With winds reaching nearly 30 mph, No. 2 Florida struggled to get hits early against the Lions before a decisive eight-run stretch secured the 8-4 win for the Gators.

“Well, it was just a tough day to hit. I actually thought we swung the bat pretty good,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Just anything hit in the air to left or center was an out, because the wind was blowing so much. I wasn’t disappointed in our bats. We hit some balls hard. It was just one of those days.”

Jackson Kowar, making his third start of the season for Florida, needed just 25 pitches through the first three innings as both teams struggled to make contact.

In seven innings of action, Kowar (3-0) gave up three runs on just five hits, while striking out five Columbia batters.

The Lions, however, scored first with an RBI from Randell Kanemaru. The 2015 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Kanemaru added his second RBI in the eighth inning, but it was too little, too late for the Lions (0-3).

Florida (10-2) scored four runs in the sixth and seventh innings, thanks in part to three RBIs from sophomore Jonathan India.

Freshman first baseman Keenan Bell turned in a strong performance at the plate as well with a pair of hits and one run scored.

“I think I’ve been doing well with whatever the coaches have asked of me,” Bell said. “Come in and try to do my best to have good at-bats, play good defense, and I think I’ve done that so far so I’m happy.”

While UF’s bats secured the win, it was the team’s patience at the plate that kept Florida in front throughout the afternoon.

Along with three wild pitches, two of which led to runs by the Gators, Columbia’s pitching staff walked 12 batters and hit junior Dalton Guthrie with a pitch in the seventh.

Sophomore Nelson Maldonado continued his recent stretch of impressive play as he went 2-for-3 on the day, while adding a run and an RBI in the sixth.

“It’s relieving actually, because it shows the hard work that I put into the cages,” Maldonado said. “I put some pressure on me. I was struggling a little bit, but this weekend opened my eyes. It taught me a lot, that I’m capable of being a good hitter.”

The upcoming schedule spells the conclusion of five games per week for the Gators.

Florida will travel to Fort Myers on Tuesday for a matchup with Florida Gulf Coast before hosting the Eagles in Gainesville on Wednesday.

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