Freshman Sparks No. 1 Gators

Taylor Gushue didn't know he was starting. Without the new scoreboard that posts the lineup before a game, the freshman might not have until game time. Cal State Fullerton found out in a hurry. Gushue homered to left field on the first pitch he saw in his collegiate career, jumpstarting No. 1 Florida's offense to a four-run seventh inning that secured a 7-3 win over No. 16 Cal State Fullerton.

"I looked at the scoreboard and saw my name out there, and I was like ‘okay, let's go,'" Taylor Gushue said with a smile.

He did just that. The box score shows 1-for-4 with the solo home run, but it was more impressive than that. Even his outs were loud. Besides the Gushue strike out in the fifth inning, he flew out to deep right-center field in the sixth inning, as Cal State Fullerton center fielder Michael Lorenzen caught the ball just feet short of the warning track.

In the seventh inning, the Titans had a left-hander on the mound. Gushue, who was in the lineup as the designated hitter, switched over to the right side of the plate and lined out to the left fielder, standing on the warning track.

That first at-bat won't ever leave his mind. Gushue got a fastball away and drove it to the opposite field, landing just above the left field fence. When he rounded the bases and headed for home plate, Gushue leaped and landed on the plate. The reception he got was impressive.

Teammates poured out of the dugout, led by All-American catcher Mike Zunino, who met Gushue with a hug.

"Everybody was shouting," Gushue said. "I couldn't really tell what was going on, but I was screaming, too. I was pumped."

After Gushue's home run got the Gators on the board, the game continued to be tied at one until the fifth inning. Florida took a 2-1 lead after freshman Casey Turgeon scored Tyler Thompson with an RBI double. Preston Tucker's solo shot in the sixth inning kept the Florida momentum going securing the knockout blow.

"I really didn't know how we would respond to a 3-3 ballgame through six," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "They stayed calm and cool under pressure."

Before the seventh inning started, the 1-5 hitters in the Florida lineup were 2-for-14. After Turgeon and fellow freshman Josh Tobias reached base with one out in the seventh inning, the middle of the order broke out.

Nolan Fontana walked to load the bases before a pitch hit Daniel Pigott to score one run. Tucker added a sacrifice fly to bring another run home, and Mike Zunino followed with a single up the middle to score another. Brian Johnson brought home the fourth and final run of the inning with a single to right field, and Florida held a 7-3 lead it wouldn't relinquish.

"That was huge," Tucker said. "We put a few hits together finally and things rolled from there."

Gushue, Tobias and Turgeon, the three freshmen in the starting lineup, combined to go 3-10 with one home run, one double and three runs scored. Turgeon made a throwing error in the second inning of the game, but he and Tobias settled in to play solid defense throughout the game.

"All the players in the starting lineup tonight earned it," O'Sullivan said. "They're all going to be good players. The most important things are we have depth and guys that we can plug in. Those young kids did well."

Game two of the series starts at 4 p.m. on Saturday at McKethan Stadium. Florida will start sophomore right-hander Karsten Whitson against Titans' redshirt freshman right-hander Grahamm Weist.

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