Harrison Bader‘s reputation is starting to precede him.

The junior outfielder from Bronxville, NY, led the Florida Gators in hitting as a freshman (.312).  He did it again as a sophomore (.337).  And now, he’s off to such a great start that enemy hurlers are starting to learn to stay away from the strike zone.

This was illustrated Wednesday night in the lone college battle between two top-ten teams.  Ninth-ranked Central Florida, which had topped the second-rated Gators 4-3 Tuesday, was going for a sweep of the mid-week series.  And the Knights walked Bader 3 times in the contest, figuring to limit the damage he could do.

One UCF pitch got too close to the plate, however, and Bader launched it for his 6th home run of the young season as Florida (11-2) throttled the Knights (also 11-2) by a 10-2 count.  The HR came in the 3rd inning with one out and no one aboard in a 3-0 game, so maybe UCF figured it was worth the risk.  When Bader’s shot cleared the leftfield fence, the Gators had a 4-0 edge and never looked back.

Bader walked in the 1st, 4th, and 6th innings, stealing a pair of bases and scoring 3 times in the contest for Coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who was very pleased with how his club responded after Tuesday’s defeat.

“Our guys played inspired tonight,” O’Sullivan said. “We talked before the game about bouncing back, and I thought that our guys were outstanding tonight. There was good energy in the dugout, we swung the bats really well, we pitched better than we did last night and it was a fun night. I think they had fun.”

Bader, who hit one dinger as a freshman and two as a sophomore, now has 6 HRs and 20 RBIs in 13 games in 2015.  He’s already just 4 shy of the 24 RBIs he had in 2014, and he’s batting .432, slugging .955, and inspiring the other batters in the Florida lineup to pick up the pace when he gets walked.  Several obliged in Wednesday’s win.

Three Gators — Dalton Guthrie, J. J. Schwarz, and Josh Tobias — each contributed 2 hits, and Christian Hicks drove in a pair of runs.  Buddy Reed doubled and scored in the opening frame, and Richie Martin singled home a run in the 6th.  Four Florida pitchers scattered 5 UCF hits, with reliever Kirby Snead getting his 1st victory of the year with 2.1 frames of scoreless work.

“After yesterday, you obviously want to come in and do well,” Snead said.  “The pitchers struggled a little bit; I struggled a little bit yesterday. We just had to battle through it. [Coach O’Sullivan] left me in, and I battled through it and kept the runs off the board.”

Florida will welcome Maine for a 3-game weekend series that begins Friday.  Central Florida will host Columbia over the weekend.

In other college action around the country Wednesday…

The ever-popular walkoff wild pitch was the difference as North Carolina (8-3) slipped past visiting VCU (3-6) 6-5.  Brian Miller raced home with the game-winner after the Tar Heels had loaded the bases in the bottom of the 9th, offsetting a 3-run rally by the Rams in the top of the frame on RBI doubles by James Bunn and Cooper Mickelson.  Freshman southpaw Nick Raquet, the 8th pitcher used by UNC in the contest, induced a groundout to end that threat, and the subsequent VCU wild pitch gave him the triumph.  Korey Dunbar drove in 2 runs for the Heels, who received 2 hits each from Landon Lassiter and Alex Raburn

LSU (12-1) won its 9th straight game by downing Grambling (2-9) 7-1 behind 2nd-inning RBI doubles by Kade Scivicque and Jake Fraley and 5 frames of no-hit, shutout relief from 5 different pitchers.  Conner Hale added a 6th-inning RBI triple for the Tigers and Grayson Byrd and Alex Bregman knocked in runs in the 7th.  Jared Foster closed the scoring in the 8th with a solo home run…

Max Beermann drove in 6 runs with a pair of homers and Donovan May went 6-for-6 (all singles) and scored 4 times to pace a 25-hit offensive attack as Villanova (4-7) clobbered Mount St. Mary’s (2-4) by a 21-4 tally… South Carolina (9-3) downed High Point (2-8) 11-3 as Kyle Martin homered and drove in 4 runs, Alex Destino went 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs, and Max Schrock knocked in 3 runs with a HR and sacrifice fly… Cord Cockrell scattered 5 hits over 7 innings and allowed just one run as Southern Miss (7-4-1) won its 4th game in a row by surprising visiting Ole Miss (6-5) 5-1, scoring on 3 sacrifice flies and a Matt Durst double…

Sophomore catcher Zack Collins broke out of a 1-for-18 slump with a titanic 1st-inning home run over the right-center wall, a triple, and 2 walks as Miami (9-4) defeated Florida Gulf Coast (5-8-1) 7-3… Ryan Miller‘s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 8th broke a 2-2 deadlock and gave Florida Atlantic (11-2) its 2nd straight 1-run triumph over North Florida (6-8), this time by a 3-2 count, despite managing just 3 hits in the game… Scott Heath drove in 3 runs with a single, double, and sacrifice fly as Maine (4-9) upended Bethune-Cookman (1-12) 11-8…

Make it 6 wins in a row for Florida State (10-3) as Darren Miller knocked in 2 runs with 2 hits and Danny De La Calle doubled and homered in the Seminoles’ 7-3 victory over South Florida (6-6-1)Jake Armstrong smashed a 2-out, 8th-inning RBI double to break a tie and send North Carolina State (7-3) to a 6-4 decision over Appalachian State (5-6)… The College of Charleston (6-3) received 2 RBIs from Carl Wise and 2 hits each from Blake Butler and Champ Rowland in an 8-3 triumph over Virginia Tech (6-6)

Wake Forest (9-4) captured its 5th straight win as Will Craig reached base 5 times in as many trips (4 walks) and scored on 4 of them, and Stuart Fairchild knocked in 3 runs in an 11-7 victory over UNC-Greensboro (2-7)Blair Beck and Michael Tinsley hammered home runs and Justin Protacio collected 3 hits as Kansas (5-8) outlasted Grand Canyon (10-4) 9-5… Campbell (10-2) swept a twin bill from William & Mary (4-4) by scores of 10-6 and 8-5 as Kyle Leady had 5 hits on the day…

Kevin Newman went 3-for-3, walked twice, and scored 3 times as Arizona (12-4) used 4 pitchers to blank New Mexico State (1-12) 10-0, allowing just 3 hits… Oregon State (9-3) scored its 22nd straight win over Portland (4-12), downing the Pilots 14-2 as Kyle Nobach had 4 hits and scored 3 times, K. J. Harrison drove in 4 tallies, and Jeff Hendrix went 3-for-4, scored 4, homered, and knocked in 3… Jeff Bain threw 6 shutout innings and Chris Paul belted a 3-run homer in the opening frame to led Cal (9-3) past San Francisco (1-11) 11-0… and Jared Walsh fired 6.1 scoreless frames and Zack Bowers crashed his 4th HR of the year and scored twice as Georgia (8-4) slipped past Georgia State (7-5) 4-2.

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