Alex Faedo pitches during Florida's 1-0 win against South Carolina on April 20, 2017, at McKethan Stadium. Faedo tossed a career-high-tying 8 2/3 innings in the win. (Photo by Jordan McPherson)
Alex Faedo walked into the dugout after the eighth inning with 111 pitches and a 1-0 lead against South Carolina.
Everything was clicking for the junior to that point. He had command of his fastball. His slider was making batters miss with ease.
He just needed three more outs.
“Do you want the ninth?” UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan asked his ace.
“Yeah,” Faedo responded. “I think I can close it out.”
For the second time this year, Faedo came close, ultimately leaving to a standing ovation with one out left after giving up a walk on his career-high 125th pitch.
But the 12th-ranked Gators still came away with the 1-0 win over the Gamecocks to open up the three-game series Thursday night at McKethan Stadium.
Faedo improved to 6-1 on the year and dropped his ERA to 2.46 with his masterful performance on the mound. The 6-5 righty struck out nine while giving up just three hits and walking four. He only allowed two South Carolina hitters to make it to scoring position.
It’s the perfect formula for success in a pitching duel to open up a conference series.
“He was outstanding,” O’Sullivan said, “and he had to be.”
South Carolina’s ace, Clarke Schmidt, was nearly flawless as well in his 5 1/3 innings before leaving with arm soreness. Schmidt, who came into the game with a 1.31 ERA, gave up just one hit in the first four innings before the Gators (26-12, 9-7 SEC) turned in the only run of the game in the fifth.
With two outs in the frame, UF junior Christian Hicks roped a two-out double to left field to get into scoring position and bring designated hitter Keenan Bell to the plate. Facing a full-count, the freshman hit a chopper up the middle for an RBI single, scoring Hicks for the decisive run.
“I knew I needed to have a good at-bat right there, come through for my team,” Bell said. “I’m lucky it came through.”
Faedo, meanwhile, continued to mow through the South Carolina lineup. His lone blemishes in the final four innings were a walk in the seventh, a single in the eighth and the walk to Alex Destino with one out left to end his start.
“Sully does know best and he hasn’t messed up on that,” Faedo said. “... I wasn’t mad at Sully or anything like that. I was mad at myself for not getting Destino out at the end.”
Sophomore Michael Byrne recorded the final out to earn his team-high seventh save of the season.
The series continues Friday at 7 p.m. and concludes at noon on Saturday.