Florida catcher JJ Schwarz pumps his fist after hitting a three-run home run Friday against Marist during the Gainesville Regional At McKethan Stadium. Brad McClenny/Staff Photographer
Florida sophomore closer Michael Byrne said he approached Friday night like he would a normal save situation — throw strikes, get ahead in the count.
At Alfred A. McKethan Stadium
Bethune-Cookman (33-24) vs. Marist (32-22), 12 p.m.
Florida (43-16) vs. South Florida (42-17), 7 p.m. Radio: AM-850, 98.1-FM
But there was little normal about what Byrne had to accomplish Friday night against Marist in UF’s Gainesville Regional opener.
With Florida clinging to a one-run lead in the seventh, Byrne was summoned to record an eight-out save. Florida junior JJ Schwarz provided some breathing room with a big three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, and the Gators held on to beat the scrappy Red Foxes 10-6 before 2,390 at McKethan Stadium.
The Gators (43-16) advanced to face USF on Saturday night at 7 p.m. (ESPN3) in a rematch of a May 9 game that the Bulls won 15-10. Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said ace righty Alex Faedo (7-2, 2.80 ERA) will start for the Gators against USF redshirt freshman lefty Shane McClanahan. USF (42-17) advanced with a 9-1 win over third-seed Bethune-Cookman behind seven scoreless innings from former Buchholz High pitcher Phoenix Sanders, who earned the win for the Bulls.
“They have a very good club,” O’Sullivan said. “They’ve been swinging the bats well and Alex has been pitching great for us so it should be an exciting ballgame.”
Florida overcame shaky defense (three errors) and an up-and-down start from sophomore righty Jackson Kowar to pick up a critical regional-opening win. Kowar (12-0) allowed five runs (two earned) on eight hits in 5.1 innings to earn the win.
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