University of Florida

Gators sweep William & Mary behind three home runs

Florida freshman Austin Langworthy (44) celebrates with Keenan Bell and Mike Rivera after hitting his first career home run during the Gators' 11-6 win over William & Mary on Feb. 19, 2017, at McKethan Stadium.
Florida freshman Austin Langworthy (44) celebrates with Keenan Bell and Mike Rivera after hitting his first career home run during the Gators' 11-6 win over William & Mary on Feb. 19, 2017, at McKethan Stadium. Special to the Miami Herald

Freshman Austin Langworthy swung at the second pitch he saw in the second inning and watched the ball fly.

The ball carried through the crisp Sunday afternoon air before finally landing beyond the right-field fence at McKethan Stadium for his first career home run.

He trotted around the bases, his face beaming in excitement before being greeted at home plate with a hug from fellow freshman Keenan Bell and then running through a tunnel of his teammates just outside their third-base dugout.

Langworthy’s blast sparked a sixth-run second inning that lifted the No. 3 Gators to an 11-6 win over William & Mary for the series sweep.

Langworthy, a freshman who grew up less than a half hour from UF’s campus in Williston, went 3 for 4 Sunday and scored a pair of runs.

“That’s what I was hoping for,” said Langworthy, who finished the weekend with a .444 batting average and also threw  2 2/3 scoreless innings during Saturday’s win. “It turned out to be pretty good for us.”

Langworthy was just the beginning, though.

The Gators (3-0) tallied 12 hits in the win and had three home runs, all from left-handed hitters. The others were a no-doubt, three-run shot to right from sophomore Deacon Liput just four at-bats after Langworthy’s, and a two-run homer from Bell in the seventh that gave UF an 11-3 lead.

“We haven’t had that in a while, the ability to stack that many lefties in a row when you get to a Sunday game when [the opponent] might be a little light on left-handers out of the pen,” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It was good.”

On the mound, sophomore Jackson Kowar was flawless for most of his  5 2/3 innings in his first weekend start.

Kowar, a 6-5 righty who was one of Florida’s midweek starters last year before a collapsed lung sidelined him for the season, threw 10 strikeouts and gave up three hits and a walk in that span. His fastball touched 96 mph at points. His slider and changeup sat in the mid-80s and kept William & Mary’s hitters off balance.

“I was just more excited to get out there and play after watching the first two nights,” said Kowar, who threw 84 pitches in the win. “I got kind of antsy.”

He struck out the side twice, had at least one strikeout every inning he pitched and at one point retired 13 straight batters before fading late in the sixth. After a William & Mary (0-3) runner reached on an error with one out, Kowar walked the Tribe’s Ryan Hall before Cullen Large hit a double to right field that brought in William & Mary’s first run of the game. On the next at-bat, Kowar threw a wild pitch and catcher JJ Schwarz gave up a passed ball to allow two more runs to cross home plate.

“He got a little tired there in the sixth,” O’Sullivan said.

Freshmen Andrew Baker ( 1 1/3 innings), Nate Brown (1 inning), Tyler Dyson (two-thirds of an inning) and Nick Long (a third of an inning) closed the game out from the bullpen. Outside of Brown, who gave up three hits and three earned runs in the eighth, the bullpen held its own yet again, striking out five batters and giving up just two walks.

For the weekend, UF’s young reliever corps gave up just those three runs and 10 total hits over  11 1/3 innings (2.38 ERA) while striking out 14 and walking two.

▪ UF will now prepare for a five-game stretch next week with a home-and-home against Jacksonville on Tuesday at Jacksonville and Wednesday in Gainesville before hosting Miami for a three-game weekend series.

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