The win advanced the Gators to an overall record of 6-7 and a conference record of 5-4. The Golden Eagles came in with heavy hitters, but their pitching was unable to stop SF State from overcoming a three-run deficit.
“This group hangs in there and then plays hard,” said baseball head coach Mike Cummins. “We might not be the smartest group but I think we’re pretty competitive. And we get after it and we believe in each other.”
The Gators infield fell apart in the first inning. In an attempt to prevent the Golden Eagles’ left-fielder Jesus Cuevas from stealing second base, catcher Mark Lindsay chucked the ball above the head of second baseman A.J. Almarez, allowing Cuevas to advance to third base. Cuevas eventually tagged home plate for the first run of the game.
“I think earlier in the game we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a few times. We made some base running mistakes and didn’t play great defense but that’s why you play nine innings,” Cummins said.
What SF State lacked on defense they made up for in offense. In the bottom of the second inning, shortstop Danny Souza hit an RBI double and left-fielder Thomas Wood hit a sacrifice fly, giving the Gators a 3-1 lead.
The Golden Eagles caught up with the Gators in the third inning after third baseman David Duran earned an RBI single that sent center-fielder Scott Masik home to plate. With two outs and the bases loaded, Watts found himself in a precarious position with the lead on the line.
Watts faced off against catcher Brian Compton, one of the Golden Eagles’ top five sluggers with a batting average over .300. Two strikes and one ball later, Compton sent the ball skyrocketing to left field and into Wood’s glove, keeping the score 3-1 in favor of the Gators.
Base running hurt the Gators’ chance to take the lead at the bottom of the inning. Itching for a chance to take the lead and add pressure to the Golden Eagles defense, first baseman A.J. Pianto started chasing after home plate from second base after a single by designated hitter Matt Quintero. His attempt to put the Gators in the lead was ill-fated as he was tagged out sliding into home plate.
“You want to make the defense make a play and that’s what we were doing,” Pianto said. “By sending me to the plate in the third inning, it put pressure on the defense and that’s what we’re looking for.”
The Gator defense finally got behind their pitcher in the top of the fourth inning, allowing Watts to put the Golden Eagles out of order.
Cal State Los Angeles inched forward in the fifth and the sixth inning with two runs apiece. The Gators snuck in one more run in the bottom of the eighth inning when King hit a double sending Quintero to home plate. The Eagles led 5-7.
Then, in the ninth inning, the Golden Eagles’ pitching broke down. With only one out, closing pitcher Cedar Morgan walked Almarez and center-fielder Dusting Wold, putting one runner, Almarez, in scoring position for Pianto’s at-bat.
“It was the last at-bat. Obviously, a crucial situation,” Pianto said. “I was just trying to do my best to stay calm, hold my composure and not let the game speed up on me.”
Pianto hit a line drive to left field for a double and his first RBI of the day. With only one out in the game, third baseman Miguel Flores was walked, making the bases loaded and giving the Gators the perfect time to capitalize.
“I just went up there trying to hit a hard ball and if it fell, it fell,” said catcher Lindsay.
Lindsay smashed the ball down the line and over the head of first baseman James Wharton, sending Pianto and Almarez home for the win.
“I was just trying to keep calm, and it happened–it fell.”