Gainesville, Fla.--Florida scored all seven of its runs and had eight of its nine hits in just two innings as the Gators defeated the Auburn Tigers 7-1 Friday night to open the SEC season. The big blow came with a two-out, two run home run by Jon Townsend that broke the game open in the fourth. The loss drops Auburn to 11-6 overall and 0-1 in conference action while the Gators improve to 12-3, 1-0.
"They did a nice job," Slater said of Florida. "They strung together some nice at-bats in the middle two innings. Grant was throwing the ball very, very well, but they put bat to ball a little bit there.
"The homer, that's a Florida home run for you," he added. "As soon as it left the bat that's not a home run pretty much anywhere else but here. It hit the chain link out there about 329 ½ feet away. That's a Florida home run. I've seen a million of those hit. The triple over Mummey's head in center, I really thought that ball was going to be caught when it left the bat, but it wasn't. We just need to come out tomorrow and be ready to go."
Friday's game came down to just two innings for the Gators against Auburn starter Grant Dayton. Florida scored all seven runs in the fourth and fifth innings as Dayton lost it just for a moment and the Gators made him pay. For the game Dayton allowed seven earned runs on eight hits in five innings. He struck out seven, but that was the only bright spot on a tough night for the left handed Dayton. Michael Hurst came on to pitch three scoreless innings, striking out five.
"He was very good," Slater said of Dayton's early performance. "He was locating. He was down in the zone. He did a good job. They obviously figured something out in the fourth and fifth. They strung together some hits. Grant is always going to give us a chance to win because he's in the zone. He had seven punch outs and only one walk, but they figured something out in the middle innings."
Offensively Auburn was outhit by Florida by just two hits, but the Gators strung their hits together while Auburn only had one inning with multiple hits against Florida starter Billy Bullock. Freshman Kevin Patterson was a bright spot at the plate with three of Auburn's seven hits in the game.
"Any time you stake a guy to a little bit of a cushion I think all pitchers get a little more aggressive," Slater said. "I thought we had some good swings on him. We hit some balls very, very hard for outs tonight. Den Dekker brought that ball back and that ball is out of here. The heavy air tonight probably kept that ball in…we had some hard hit balls all night, but our balls didn't find many gaps or holes tonight. We were still hitting some balls there late. Scoring only one run is not the kind of offense we want to have. We want to score a little more than that."
The only threat early for Auburn offensively came in the top of the second inning off the bat of freshman Hunter Morris. Getting a pitch to drive off Bullock, Morris lifted one high and deep only to see Matt den Dekker reach over the wall and bring the ball back in for a great catch. It was the only time until the seventh that the Tigers would even threaten to score off Bullock.
In the meantime the Gators put a hurting on Dayton. Entering the game allowing just one earned run this season, Dayton struck out five in the first three innings and completely shut down Florida until the fourth. That's when the Gators struck in quick fashion.
Leading off the fourth, Cole Figueroa singled up the middle to get things started for the home team. Second baseman Josh Adams followed with a deep double to center field that scored Figueroa and put the Gators on the board first. Following a bunt single by den Dekker, a fielder's choice from Brandon McArthur scored Adams to make it 2-0. Dayton looked like he would escape with no more damage as he struck out a Gator for out two, but Jon Townsend's two run home run gave Florida a commanding 4-0 lead heading to the fifth.
With Bullock settling in on the mound, the Gators came back for more in the bottom of the fifth. Leading off the inning, Avery Barnes reached on a bunt single to once again put Dayton in a tough spot. A sacrifice bunt moved Barnes to second where he would score moments later on a Figueroa double. An Adams single then put runners on the corners and McArthur made the Tigers pay with a triple over the head of Trent Mummey in center field. The two more runs gave Florida a 7-0 lead and the Gators would have little trouble holding onto that advantage for the win.
Auburn finally got something going against Bullock in the seventh inning as Mike Bianucci led off with a sharp single and Morris earned a walk to give the Tigers two runners on in the same inning for the first time in the game. A fly ball off the bat of Joseph Sanders to center field wasn't enough to get over the wall, but it did move Bianucci to third.
That was enough as Kevin Patterson's second single of the game scored him to get Auburn on the board. Clint Franklin came on for the Gators and snuffed out the Tigers in the seventh though as he got Brian Fletcher and Ryan Jenkins to end the inning and keep the Gators up 7-1. That would be all for the Tigers as they stranded two in the ninth after making one last charge.
Auburn will look to get on the board in the league when sophomore Scott Shuman (2-0, 2.70 ERA) takes the mound for the 3 p.m. CDT start against Patrick Keating (1-0, 2.63) for the Gators.