Gators Take Opener Against the Canes

The inning looked like it was over. With two outs in the second inning, the Gators (8-1) put together a rally that outscored what Miami did in the entire game. No. 1 Florida saw seven consecutive hitters reach base on its way to four runs, while Brian Johnson cruised on the mound to give the Gators an 8-3 win over the Hurricanes at McKethan Stadium Friday.

Mike Zunino and Ben McMahan got the rally started with back-to-back singles to left field. Daniel Pigott followed with a single up the middle to score Zunino and put the Gators on the board. Josh Adams delivered from the ninth spot in the order with an RBI single of his own.

After Nolan Fontana walked, Miami starting pitcher Bryan Radziewski threw a wild pitch that scored the third run of the game. Preston Tucker finished the inning with an RBI single to make it 4-0 after two innings.

"It's one of those things with confidence," Adams said. "Once we score one run, we're more than likely to score another one that inning. It gets everybody in the dugout going. It's a confidence thing to get ahead of a team early."

Adams went 3-for-3 with three RBIs at the plate after making an adjustment in Thursday's batting practice to keep his shoulder more closed in his swing. It forced his approach at the plate to be aimed at right field, keeping him more balanced at the plate and able to get to the fastball on the outside part of the plate.

Six of the eight runs Florida scored came with two outs, adding its total to 24 two-out RBI this season, while the Florida pitching staff has allowed just four.

The only two runs that didn't come with two outs were on one swing from sophomore Austin Maddox. After hitting 17 home runs last season, the third baseman got on the board with his first home run of the year when he deposited a cutter from Radziewski into the left field bleachers.

"I've been having a lot of good (at-bats) all year," Maddox said. "My batting average isn't really good, but I'm just going to keep swinging it and they're going to fall. I've been squaring a lot of balls up, but just right at people."

The early cushion was more than enough with Johnson (3-0) on the mound.

The left-hander went five shutout innings, allowing three hits, one walk and striking out nine, tying a career high set against Arkansas last April. Johnson struck out the first six batters he faced, but that combined with two errors in the first two innings had his pitch count at 42.

He had to adjust to give the Gators at least five innings.

They threw more changeups to force earlier contact in the count and Johnson responded by working through the third and fourth innings with a combined 15 pitches.

"I was just trying to pitch to contact. I was missing a little bit and they were fouling balls off, so I couldn't really put them away. I found that slider a little bit, and it helped. (The strikeouts) feel good, but your pitch count seems to run up faster."

Including the errors, Johnson allowed six base runners in five innings. The difference in the game came in those situations. Miami ended the game 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

The benefit of the early lead came in the Gators being able to save most of the important bullpen pieces. The seldom used Matt Campbell and Jonathon Crawford threw scoreless sixth and seventh innings respectively. Freshman Daniel Gibson threw the eighth, but didn't record an out. Junior Greg Larson worked out of the trouble after Gibson allowed three runs, and Larson threw an easy ninth inning.

The pitching staff tied a season high with 13 strikeouts, and the group has struck out at least eight batters in every game this season.

The series continues on Saturday as the Gators and Miami will play at 3 p.m. Florida is scheduled to throw sophomore right hander Hudson Randall (1-0, 1.64) against Miami sophomore right-hander EJ Encinosa (0-1, 6.00). The game will be broadcast by Sun Sports.


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