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No. 1 Gators clinch SEC regular season title

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Top-ranked Florida posted a 9-3 win over No. 15 Georgia to clinch an SEC series along with its second consecutive conference crown Saturday at McKethan Stadium.

Florida (41-11, 20-6 SEC) hit four home runs on the day including a grand slam by Blake Reese in the sixth that made it 7-1. Gator junior right-hander Jackson Kowar pitched seven innings and allowed one unearned run with nine strikeouts to improve his record to 9-2. Bulldog freshman Emerson Hancock fell to 6-3, allowing eight runs on nine hits with four walks and four strikeouts in five innings. After the game, Florida added a “2018” to the centerfield wall listing of its conference titles.

In the top of the first inning, senior Keegan McGovern and junior Michael Curry reached with two-out singles. McGovern has reached base safely in 48 of 50 games this year while Curry extended his hitting streak to seven games. Georgia went on top 1-0 in the second, Cam Shepherd and LJ Talley started off the frame with base hits. After a passed ball by JJ Schwarz, senior Mitchell Webb picked up an RBI on a groundout, scoring Shepherd.

Florida tied the contest in the fourth when Schwarz connected on a solo home run, his second of the series and 12th of the season. In the fifth,  designated hitter Nelson Maldonado hit a two-run home run to put the Gators in front 3-1. Bulldog sophomore Aaron Schunk had a leadoff single in the sixth to extend his career-best hitting streak to 18 games. In the eighth, Georgia’s Patrick Sullivan came through with a two-run single to close the gap to 9-3. Tim Elliott and Justin Glover combined to pitch the final three innings for the Bulldogs. Georgia dropped to 34-16 overall and 15-11 in the SEC.

“Their hits were a little bigger, said Georgia’s Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin as the Bulldogs out hit Florida 11 to 10. “We made a couple mistakes and you can’t do that against the number one team in the country on the road. We didn’t play very well today and that’s not like us. I liked how we battled Friday. We have to regroup and look to salvage a win Sunday and realize there’s still a lot to play for the rest of the way.”