GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A three-run homer by Dylan Dillard and strong pitching by Justin Russell and Alex McRae powered Jacksonville to a 3-1 win against No. 14 Florida on Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium.
The Dolphins (14-25) took down their third top-20 opponent of the season while ending a six-game winning streak for the Gators (27-14).
After missing his weekend start due to an inclement weather cancelation, Russell (5-2) was primed for another signature performance on the mound. He tossed seven innings, allowing one run on three hits with one strikeout.
“He has a tendency to rise to the occasion,” head coach Tim Montez said on Russell, who also has a win at TCU this season. “I’ve been blessed over the year to coach some pretty good competitors from Matt Garza, to Cliff Lee to Doug Fister. While he doesn’t have those types of tools, he competes as hard as any of those three and that’s what make him so good. His ability to compete and believe in his three pitches.”
The lone run off Russell came off the bat of Zack Powers. Powers gave Florida a 1-0 lead in the second with a two-out solo home run to right.
With Russell and Florida starter Karsten Whitson both dealing on the mound, the score stood pat through the next few innings with neither team putting together a deep threat. That all changed in the seventh. Braddock Rowe and Michael Babb were each hit by a pitch with one out to put a pair of runners on for Dillard. Batting with two outs following a sacrifice but Dillard deposited the second pitch he saw from Gator reliever Ryan Harris deep into the left field bleacher for his second home run of the season.
“You know he is going to try to throw fastball after just hitting two guys so I looked for one middle in and put a good swing on it,” Dillard said of his go-ahead bomb.
“We were hoping that scenario would happen," Montez said. “Dylan has some pop in his bat and we could not ask for anything better in that situation and he did a nice job getting his pitch and capitalizing on it.”
After Russell worked a perfect seventh, McRae came on in the eighth to close the door. The normal Friday starter for the Dolphins, McRae allowed hit and two base runners in his two innings to pick up his second career save.
“This is a huge win for us now that we have the next nine days off to study for finals,” Dillard said. “Our practices will be fully of energy and we’ll be looking to carry the momentum over when we start back to conference play.”
Senior Scott Schaub, who entered the night ranked 10th in the nation in hitting, went 2-for-4 to raise his average to .412 on the season.
The win is the first for JU against Florida since an 11-2 victory in Gainesville in May of 2011. The Dolphins have now won two of the past three at McKethan Stadium against the Gators.