Gators Answer Boston College's Challenge

Through five games this season, No. 1 Florida hadn't been tested, but that changed in the seventh inning of Friday night's game against Boston College. The Eagles rallied for two runs and tied the game off the Gators' bullpen, and the Florida bats had to respond. The Gators scored six runs in the next two innings, turning a once close game into a 9-3 victory over the Eagles at McKethan Stadium.

"I like the way we bounced back and answered," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "This just helps us in general. It was a good test, but it's still early in the season. We're going to go through some things and get better as we go along, but this was a good test for us for sure."

With one out in the seventh inning, Boston College reliever Kyle Prohovich walked three straight hitters to load the bases. Matt Brazis came out of the bullpen, but he walked Preston Tucker on four pitches to give Florida a one-run lead. Austin Maddox and Brian Johnson followed with RBI singles to make the score 6-3.

"I think it was good for us," Tucker said. "Our pitching has been so good that we haven't had any real close games this year. Our hitters responded just the way coach wanted us to."

The three runs in the seventh inning were nice, but the momentum might actually have switched into Florida's favor before the team even had a chance to hit. Boston College shortstop Brad Zapenas tripled into left-center field with two outs to score two runs and tie the game at three. After the throw came in late to Florida third baseman Zack Powers, the freshman kept the ball and walked casually around the base.

Zapenas, still fired up from his triple, got an early lead off third base while Florida pitcher Daniel Gibson walked carefully behind the dirt of the mound. Powers snuck up behind him, put the tag on and ran towards the dugout.

The Florida bench erupted after finally executing a play they have tried multiple times in practice.

"We were all in the bullpen (warming up) and saw it happening," Florida reliever Tommy Toledo said of his view. "That was definitely a big play in the game. All of us guys down in the bullpen were going nuts. We try it a couple times in intrasquad games, but it never works because we all know some guys are going to try and pull it off."

The Florida coach was happiest about the players that were involved in executing the hidden ball trick.

"The impressive thing is that it was two freshmen with Gibson on the mound and Powers pulling it off," O'Sullivan said. "It changed the momentum of the game. We pull the hidden ball, and everybody is all fired up. Gibson was extremely fired up. Obviously, it's not going to happen often, but it changed the game."

The Gators added three more runs in the eighth inning on an RBI double from Kamm Washington and a two-run single by Johnson.

Starting pitcher Hudson Randall didn't factor in the decision because of the two-run triple by Gibson that tied the game, but the sophomore continued the trend of dominant starting pitching. He went five innings, allowing four hits and one run while striking out four hitters.

Randall was 13-for-18 on first pitch strikes and threw 50 of his 70 pitches for strikes.

"I felt better than I did last (Saturday)," Randall said. "I felt a lot better out the second time and the nerves weren't as bad. I felt good out there."

The three runs given up by the Florida pitching staff was the most they have given up in six games this year.

Besides driving in a run with a walk, Tucker also hit a solo home run in the third inning to the opposite field. He was 3-for-4 on the night with a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored. He is now hitting .520 with nine RBIs after six games.

Johnson went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored.

Daniel Pigott and Ben McMahan each added two hits.

The teams won't play on Saturday because Boston College is heading to Fort Myers to play the Boston Red Sox in their spring training opener.

The Eagles will come back to Gainesville after the game, and the two teams will finish the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. Freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (1-0, 0.00) is scheduled to get the start against Boston College right-hander John Leonard.

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