Do you think the Florida Gators may have missed Peter Alonso the last two weekends? With Alonso out after suffering a broken bone in his left hand after being hit by a Jordan Sheffield fastball three weeks ago today, the Gators finished one game short of winning the SEC regular season and then finished one game short of winning the SEC Tournament. Not having their leading home run and RBI man in the clean up spot clearly made Florida beatable as the lost three of five games to LSU, one of two game to Vanderbilt and also the SEC Tournament Championship Game to Texas A&M. Those five losses were over a third of the losses Florida suffered all season as they came into NCAA Regional play at 47-13.
Alonso showed up to McEthan Stadium with his left hand still wrapped as he stepped off the team bus. But he was announced into the starting lineup after a lengthy weather delay and received a loud ovation from the pro-Gators crowd. He stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the first following a walk to J. J. Schwarz and drove the first pitch from Bethune-Cookman’s Ty Morris about 400 feet into the left center field stands. Actually the ball would have cleared the stands easily had it not hit a tree and fell back down.
Alonso was not done there though. He stepped in the batter’s box again in the bottom of the fourth and drove another BCU pitch deep over the left centerfield wall for his second bomb of the game to make it 7-1.
Logan Shore pitched into the seventh inning to run his perfect record this season to 11-0. He now has 29 career wins with the Gators, two shy of tying the school record.
Florida scored seven runs in the first four innings against the MEAC Champion Wildcats. But BCU hung tough, cutting the lead to 7-3 after the top of the seventh yielded two runs. But UF countered with two of their own in the bottom of the seventh on sac flies from Danny Reyes and Nelson Maldonado to make it 9-3 which ended up being the final score.
The Gators offense is so much better with Alonso in the clean up spot. He is a deep threat every time he comes to bat and with him batting behind Schwarz, J. J. will see better pitches to hit.
Florida will face a tough test in the winner’s bracket game on Saturday as they face a red-hot UConn team, winners of 14 of their last 15 games. The Huskies throw potential first round pick Anthony Kay at the Gators who will counter with their own first rounder in A. J. Puk. Runs will be hard to come by on Saturday, which makes Alonso’s return that much more important to the overall #1 seeded Gators. If they can go 2-0 tomorrow, they need only one more win to advance to the Super Regional next weekend. If they lose to UConn, they must win three in a row. So tomorrow night is a critical game.