UF clinches walk-off win to even series

Josh Tobias

Rain pummeled the tarp that gripped McKethan's infield, plugging the scheduled 7 p.m. start time for the second game of Florida's series versus Auburn. The Gators made it count in their own delay Saturday night, rising to a 5-4 walk-off win in a four-run ninth inning to even the series with Auburn.

The orange and blue entered the top of the ninth trailing Auburn 4-1 with only four hits to their name. Tigers starting pitcher Michael O'Neal pegged second baseman Casey Turgeon's elbow to lead off Florida's last at-bats. Catcher Taylor Gushue then reached base off his fielder's choice to third. Senior first baseman Vickash Ramjit pulled a one-out single through the right side gifting two on the base paths for sophomore third baseman Josh Tobias.

On an 0-0 count, Tobias delivered something against O'Neal that no one else had all season: a home run.

Tobias pulled a three-run homer over the left-field wall to tie the game at four in the bottom of the ninth.

"The three-run homer is obviously a swing that we won't forget — it was a huge, huge — probably one of the biggest hits we've had all year long," coach Kevin O'Sullivan said, "but that doesn't happen unless those guys get on base in front of him."

Tobias' round-tripper off an O'Neal fastball signaled the end of the Auburn starter's night at 101 pitches.

"You could see everybody's eyes light up in the stands," Tobias said. "I had a feeling we were going to win in that inning because everything was just happening our way."

Tobias' hunch was right.

The Tigers entered right-hander Reid Carter to face Gators freshman left fielder Harrison Bader. Bader was walked on a full count, sticking UF's winning run on first. Florida then called upon Zack Powers to pinch-hit for Brady Roberson. Roberson garnered the start over Powers on Saturday in the designated hitter position. "After sitting on the bench the whole game, you want to get in there and contribute and I'm glad I got a chance to get called upon," Powers said. The sophomore's double found a hole in shallow right field, allowing Bader to score and for the Gators to bag the game 5-4.

Powers said he and his teammates felt a spark in the dugout after Tobias' homer.

"Anytime you hit a home run, the energy's going to explode," Powers said. "It was really great — especially the way Josh has been hitting the ball lately. He's been putting good swings on the ball and they haven't been falling for him. It was awesome to see that one go over the fence."

UF garnered a speedy start earlier in the game off right-hander Johnny Magliozzi who was first to toe the rubber against lefty O'Neal.

Florida's sophomore starter notched a quick, 1-2-3 first but was stuck into trouble versus his first batter of the second inning. Auburn DH Patrick Savage pulled a leadoff double to right-center field and scored off second baseman Jordan Ebert's one-out, RBI single up the middle. However, Magliozzi tallied three strikeouts on the Tigers in the second.

Savage's damage at the plate waved into third inning. The designated hitter pulled a two-out RBI single through the right side to score right fielder Hunter Kelley who notched a single of his own earlier.

The Gators failed to hit the board until the bottom of the fifth inning when two freshmen fired away in a two-out deficit. Bader singled to second base and advanced to scoring position off the first baseman's throwing error in his steal attempt. DH Roberson then rifled an RBI double to right field to slice Auburn's lead to 2-1.

Roberson was Florida's first batter to post a hit in game two after pulling a one-out single down the left-field line matching his career-high four-game hitting streak.

"I'm really pleased with how he stepped up tonight and gave us some really quality at-bats," O'Sullivan said of the freshman.

The scoreboard didn't sting with action against until the eighth inning when Kelley led off the inning with a solo home run off the left-center wall to widen the Tigers' lead 3-1. His solo shot signaled the end of Magliozzi's night. Magliozzi pitched a career-high seven innings complete with 104 pitches before being swapped for left-hander Danny Young.

O'Sullivan said he was thinking about Magliozzi's enthusiasm on the bench Friday night when opting him as Saturday's starter.

"To be honest with you, I was tired of seeing him sit on the bench waiting until the eighth inning or the ninth inning," O'Sullivan said. "This was an important game for us and I called him last night and told him what I was thinking. We made the decision this morning and the fact of the matter is it was a big game for us and we went to a guy that we trusted."

A slew of pitching matchups brought right-hander Ryan Harris and left-hander Daniel Gibson to the mound before Mike Vinson came to the mound as the last UF pitcher of the night. Two outs deep into the ninth, Vinson let up a home run to nine-hole hitter Blake Austin to up Auburn's lead 4-1 before the Gators answered back in the bottom of the inning.

The victory evened the SEC series after the Gators dropped the opener 7-4 Friday night.

"We've been waiting for a win like this all year long," O'Sullivan said. "Baseball's a weird game. You just have to try to keep it close to stay in there — you never know what's going to happen. It was two really good teams that came down to the bottom of the ninth — a pitch here, a pitch there."

Florida (28-24, 13-13 SEC) takes on Auburn (30-20, 10-16 SEC) in the rubber game Sunday at 1 p.m. The Gators and Tigers both have yet to announce a starter on the hill for the orange and blue's final home game of the season.

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