The scouts congregated behind home plate and trained their radar guns on Alex Faedo. Florida’s 6-5 junior will be a first round pick next month.
The scouts also got an eyeful from Jake Walters. The Crimson Tide junior and the Gators’ ace went nose-to-nose for seven innings on Friday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Both gave up one run, and both exited the game after seven innings.
No. 5 Florida (36-14, 17-8 SEC) closed the night out by scratching a run across in the top of the ninth inning to beat Alabama (19-30, 5-20 SEC) 2-1.
“That’s what people come to the stands to see,” Alabama coach Greg Goff said. “Two tremendous arms going at each other. Two teams competing their rear ends off tonight. That’s what a Friday night game is supposed to look like right there. We just want to come out on the other end.”
Alabama and Florida each turned to their top relievers after their starters left. The Gators’ winning run was aboard on a leadoff single from shortstop Dalton Guthrie. He moved to second when pitcher Garrett Suchey threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt, then went to third on a wild pitch. A fly ball to center field brought him home.
Suchey had previously earned the final out of the eighth inning on a pickoff at first base. He’s tied for the SEC lead with four pickoffs this season. The Crimson Tide is 5-13 in one-run games this season, while Florida is 16-7.
“Those little things add up in those one-run losses,” Goff said. “I think if we go back at the end of the year, I think we’ll see a lot of those opportunities. Next year we have to make those plays.”
It could be the final home start for Walters, who is eligible for the draft this summer. He finished with eight strikeouts against just two walks and two hits on Friday. In his last three starts he’s given up five earned runs across 19 1/3 combined innings. Florida got three total hits on the night, the fewest Alabama has allowed in the SEC this season.
Faedo sparkled through his seven innings as well. He had eight strikeouts while allowing three hits and four walks.
“He really attacked with fastballs,” second baseman Cobie Vance said. “He really liked to throw the fastball. His off-speed stuff is really good but he’s a hard-throwing guy so he really likes the fastball. We put some good swings on it early and balls started falling on him the second time through.”
Alabama’s lone run came when designated hitter Kyle Kaufman singled in the fourth, then Vance doubled down the left field line to drive him in. Florida evened the game up when catcher JJ Schwarz hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh. No player for either team registered more than one hit.
Suchey suffered the loss while Florida’s Michael Byrne got the win with two shutout innings.
Alabama could have taken control with runners in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. But each time, the UA lineup wasn’t able to catch up to Faedo or the Florida bullpen.
“I just think the difference tonight compared to this last week or the last 10 days when we’ve won, we just didn’t get the big hit when we needed to,” Goff said. “We had guys in scoring position and we didn’t get the big hit.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.