By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor
It may have started with a one-run squeaker, but No. 18 Florida Gators baseball (27-13, 12-6 SEC) battered the Georgia Bulldogs (21-18-1, 7-10-1) over the weekend to secure its second-straight home series sweep and extend its overall active winning streak to six games.
The Florida-Georgia series opener set for Friday was rained out, forcing the teams to complete all three games in a span of approximately 24 hours. The Gators took down the Bulldogs 3-2 and 8-1 in a Saturday doubleheader before completing the sweep 10-3 on Sunday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.
Florida powered past Georgia in large part due to its bullpen, which was unfazed by the lack of rest and only allow one run over 11.2 innings.
Freshman third baseman Justin Sternagel’s first career home run came at a perfect time- the solo shot in the fifth proved to be the deciding run in UF’s series-opening victory, which also marked the team’s 10th come-from-behind win in 2014.
UGA managed two runs off freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K) for an early 2-0 lead in the contest. However, the Gators rallied to tie in the fourth with RBIs off the bats of freshman first baseman Peter Alonso (0/3, RBI) and junior left fielder Justin Shafer (1/2, RBI). Junior left-hander Bobby Poyner (4 IP, 2 H, 7 K) relieved Shore in the sixth, staying on for a four-inning save in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Game two was over midway through the contest as Florida exploded for six runs in the fourth inning and cruised to an 8-1 victory. The top of the order did the bulk of the damage for UF, combining for seven RBIs. The outpouring of offense was more than enough run support for sophomore right-hander Aaron Rhodes (5.1 IP, 7 H, ER, 4 K), whose solid effort helped fuel the win.
Florida’s bats stayed hot for the series finale as the Gators saw seven runs cross the plate in the first two offensive frames, giving sophomore LHP Danny Young (5 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) a 7-1 cushion entering the third inning. Six UF players drove in runs by the time everything was said and done with sophomore center fielder Harrison Bader (3/3 3 RBI) leading the pack.
The Gators have a chance to keep their top-notch play going with their next five games all at home in Gainesville. Florida will face Jacksonville on Tuesday and host Florida A&M on Wednesday. The eight-game homestand wraps up next weekend when UF, still in the lead in the Southeastern Conference East division, hosts Missouri.