Gators Cruise to Another Win

Hudson Randall doesn't light up radar guns. He doesn't hang many "K"s on the outfield wall for each strikeout. He almost always gets the job done, though. It was another steady start for Randall on Saturday, as his seven innings on the mound helped Florida to a 12-4 win over Rhode Island.

"We got a really good start out of Hudson," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "He did his normal thing by throwing strikes. It was vintage Hudson Randall."

Randall (2-0, 1.08) allowed three runs (one earned) and five hits over seven innings while recording four strikeouts. The sophomore also walked one batter, which was his first walk of the season. It came after throwing 22.1 innings without one on the year.

"I felt pretty good," Randall said. "My off-speed wasn't working too well early in the game, which was frustrating. I just kept with it and kept hitting my spots."

It was a different day on the mound for Randall. Twelve of his 21 outs came through the air, despite the sophomore usually using his off-speed pitches to force hitters to pound the ball into the ground for outs. He still stayed down in the zone with his pitches on Saturday, but it was Rhode Island's approach that caused all the fly outs.

"They're a lot of free swingers," Randall said. "Every pitch I was trying to make a quality pitch because they're swinging at a lot of it. Most of the pop ups came on low pitches actually, where they just went down to get low pitches and golf them out."

The more important outcome wasn't on the mound. It was in his pitch count. O'Sullivan said that the starting pitchers were kept between 70-75 pitches for the first three starters before being extended to 85-90 this weekend. Brian Johnson threw 92 pitches on Friday, and Randall was extended to 85 on Saturday. This means the starters are still fresh, but they also have the ability to reach 100 pitches as conference play begins next weekend.

"It has worked as planned, so far," O'Sullivan said.

The difference between this outing and his previous three came in run support.

In his previous three starts, the Florida offense has only scored four runs with Randall still in the game. The offense scored eleven runs in Randall's time on Saturday.

Preston Tucker got the scoring started in the first inning, hitting a two-run home run to right. It wasn't a no-doubter like he has hit in his career, instead it came with two strikes and Tucker on his front foot. It was a towering ball that kept Rhode Island right fielder Kyle Borden drifting back towards the wall. He jumped and caught the ball, but it came out of his glove and went over the fence when he hit the wall.

"It was a changeup and not a terrible pitch with two strikes," Tucker said. "I hit it to the shortest part of the park, and fortunately it cleared the wall… kind of."

The big blow came when the Gators put a seven-spot on the board in the second inning.

It started with a play that defined the entire inning. Mike Zunino reached on a fielding error by the third baseman, and advanced to third when Rhode Island left fielder Jeff Cammans couldn't field the ball, and it bounced off his body to the right. Zunino scored when Tyler Thompson reached on an error by Rhode Island shortstop Mike LeBel. Josh Adams then lined a ball to left field and over Cammans' head, moving Thompson to third.

Zack Powers then tripled to right field when Cammans overran the ball and allowed it to sneak by him and into the left field corner, scoring Adams and Thompson. Nolan Fontana then singled to right field, scoring Powers. Daniel Pigott hit a routine double play to third base, but Rhode Island second baseman Pat Fortunato couldn't handle a perfect throw and dropped it. Preston Tucker singled on the next pitch to load the bases.

Austin Maddox reached on a fielder's choice, where Rhode Island got the out at second base, but Fontana scored. After Maddox was picked off first base, Brian Johnson doubled to right-center field to score Pigott. After Zunino singled to shortstop, Thompson singled to left and scored Johnson.

Mercifully for Rhode Island, the inning came to an end after Florida sent 12 batters to the plate.

"It's going to happen rarely, but when it does, you have to take advantage of it," Fontana said. "You've got to put pressure on them. That's what happened, and it went our way. They were throwing strikes early in the count, and we put good swings on it. That was a big part of that inning."

Eight of nine Florida starters got a hit, with Daniel Pigott being the only one who did. It broke Pigott's 13-game hitting streak.

Freshman Keenan Kish closed the game with a scoreless ninth inning and striking out two batters in his first career appearance. The Florida dugout was unusually loud for the ninth inning with an eight-run lead, but it was because of the respect the players have for Kish.

"He works his tail off, and he's a guy that we're all behind," Fontana said. "He got his opportunity and did well. He's a great guy to be around. He's definitely one of our brothers, and a lot of us are putting him under our wing. I'm proud of him."

The Gators will go for the sweep on Sunday at 1 p.m. Florida sends freshman right-hander Karsten Whitson (2-0, 1.76) to the mound against Rhode Island senior left-hander Stephen Peterson (0-2, 8.59).

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