Jacksonville Sports Day

FSU: Grady Shines, But Noles Fall 3-1 to Gators in Final Showdown

Photos by Larry Novey/FSU

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State (19-13) fell to Florida (22-13) 3-1 in the third and final game of the Sunshine Showdown Tuesday at Dick Howser Stadium.

A pinch-hit two-run double in the top of the ninth by Kirby McMullen proved the difference as the two teams were dead-locked at one apiece from the 5th inning on.

“It’s one of those nights. I’ve been thinking about this night for a long time, being the last time we get a chance to compete against Coach Martin. I’m obviously really excited we played better tonight, number one, but all the games we’ve competed against Florida State over the years have been extra special and this has really been special tonight for a lot of different reasons,” said UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan.

Florida State starting pitcher Conor Grady had the best outing of his career, setting career-highs for innings pitched (7.0) and strikeouts (9). He was the first Seminole starter to pitch seven innings this season and held Florida without a hit through 5.2 innings.

In two career starts, both against the Gators this season, Grady pitched 10.0 innings, allowing five hits and one unearned run and struck out 12 batters.

Florida State outhit the Gators, 8-5, with two each from Drew Mendoza, Nico Baldor and Mat Nelson. All eight hits were singles, while Florida hit two pivotal doubles in the ninth inning to get the win.

The Seminoles put runners on in each of the first four innings on five singles but could not push a run across. The best opportunity for FSU came in the third, when Nelson and Alec Sanchez singled to put runners on the corners, but a 4-6-3 double play ended the inning.

Florida took a lead in the fourth inning when Brady McConnell reached on a dropped fly ball, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a passed ball for a 1-0 lead.

Florida starter David Luethje allowed five hits over his 4.0 innings and left after a leadoff walk to Nander De Sedas in the fifth inning. Justin Alintoff entered and gave up a single to Nelson, his second of the game, and both runners advanced on stolen bases. With one out, Sanchez grounded out to first base to score De Sedas and tie the game at 1-1.

Jonah Scolaro gave up a single and a walk in the eighth when Santino Miozzi attempted to bunt both runners up a base. Nelson fielded the two-strike bunt and gunned the lead runner down at third base. Chase Haney (2-2) entered to face the top of the Gators lineup, inducing a pair of groundouts to keep Florida from scoring.

Kendrick Calilao doubled with one out in the ninth inning, the final batter for Haney. Clayton Kwiatkowski struck out Austin Langworthy for the second out, intentionally walked Wil Dalton before Kirby McMullen hit a two-run double down the right field line for a 3-1 Gators lead.

Ben Specht (1-0) retired the Seminoles in order in the bottom of the ninth.

“I thought for the most part we played pretty good defense. Obviously, the big at bat tonight was Kirby McMullen. I think that’s probably one of the biggest reasons why we’re so excited we won, because everybody pulls for Kirby,” added O’Sullivan. “He always does everything he can to help the other guys be successful on the bench and he’s always in the game whether he has a chance to play or not. He’s one of the most liked guys in the locker room. For him to come up and get a big hit like that in the eighth inning was obviously huge. We needed to play a little bit better. I don’t ever remember playing as poorly as we did at Ole Miss. We needed to play better and we did tonight.”

NOLES’ NOTES –  Grady set career-highs with 7.0 innings pitched and nine strikeouts. In his two career starts, both this season against Florida, Grady has given up just one unearned run and five hits with 12 strikeouts in 10.0 innings…Tuesday was the first time a Seminole pitcher had thrown more than 6.0 innings this season. Grady’s previous highs were 3.2 innings pitched (at Notre Dame) and five strikeouts (three times, most recently vs. Jacksonville last week)….Nico Baldor and Mat Nelson both had their second multi-hit game of the season. Nelson and Nander De Sedas had stolen bases….Alec Sanchez’s groundout to score De Sedas in the fourth inning was his first career RBI.

GATORS NOTES – Ben Specht tied his career high with three innings pitched and allowed just one hit. He had five strikeouts and no walks. In two relief appearances against FSU, Specht has totaled five innings pitched with nine strikeouts and no walks….Florida has won 11 games in a row over Florida State, won 16 of the last 17 and swept the last four regular-season series. With Tuesday likely being the last meeting between Florida and FSU, the Gators finish 77-76 all-time against FSU head coach Mike Martin…Florida returns to Gainesville for a three-game series against South Carolina.

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