Florida Avoids Letdown in Route

The Gators put to rest any doubts about a letdown early. After a weekend sweep at Miami, Florida's offense scored 14 runs in the first four innings to put the game away early and earn some rest for the starters. No. 1 Florida cruised the rest of the way to a 16-1 win over Florida Atlantic on Tuesday to move to 11-1, matching the program's best start since 2003.

There was a clear point of emphasis before the game on moving on from the weekend. After that, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan trusted his veteran leadership to push the team into a strong performance.

"We spoke about that before the game," O'Sullivan said. "Historically in this week, we have not played our best baseball for whatever reason after the Miami series. We talked about it—it was a great weekend in Miami but the reality is it's over. We needed to move on and focus on FAU tonight to show the maturity that I would hope this team would.

"We have to be able to handle success, as well as failure. I challenged them a little bit to be focused for this week."

The veterans answered the challenge.

The previous high for runs in a game for Florida was 13 that came in Coral Gables over the weekend. The Gators passed that with one out in the fourth inning.

Mike Zunino only had three at-bats but went 3-3 with two home runs and five RBIs. His first inning two-run blast gave the Gators a 3-0 lead, scoring Preston Tucker, who had an RBI single to reach base.

The second inning is where the Florida bats put the game out of reach. Casey Turgeon, Josh Tobias and Tyler Thompson started the inning with three straight singles to score one run.

Daniel Pigott's infield single scored Tobias, and Thompson scored on a fielder's choice by Preston Tucker. That's when Zunino delivered his second blast of the game and give the Gators a 9-1 lead.

"We went in with the same mindset and hitting approach," Zunino said. "We were just trying to get into hitters' counts, and we were able to pop the big inning."

Thompson chipped in with a two-run home run over the right field scoreboard to give the Gators an 11-1 lead after three innings. Brian Johnson's RBI double, Turgeon's RBI single and Thompson's RBI groundout pushed the lead to 14-1 after four innings.

Zunino was pulled after his third at-bat in the fourth inning with five RBIs, just two short of his career high. Thompson fell just one RBI short of his career high of six, which came against FAU in the 2010 Gainesville Regional Final.

Thompson struggled in the first two weeks of the season, but he has turned it around in recent games. The senior has his average up to .333 (11-33) with two home runs and eight RBIs.

"It's just my approach," Thompson said. "I'm trying to get my pitches instead of the pitcher's pitch. I'm trying to work the count and see more pitches."

Taylor Gushue started the sixth inning with a single, giving every Florida starter a hit.

On the mound, freshman left-hander Bobby Poyner (1-0) gave the Gators what they needed. He was on a pitch count but went four innings, allowing three hits, one unearned run and struck out three. He threw 46 of his 63 pitches for strikes, including 32 of the first 41.

"I was just moving my fastball in and out," said Poyner. "I felt confident."

Poyner made only seven starts during his senior season at Palm Beach Central before his year was cut short by Tommy John surgery. He didn't throw at all in the fall because of the surgery, but O'Sullivan thought his arm was ready to start throwing when he came back for spring practices.

O'Sullivan purposely used Poyner in back-to-back games against Bethune-Cookman and UCF during the first week of the season to see how his arm would respond. He passed all the tests and currently has a 1.04 ERA.

"His fastball is coming back," O'Sullivan said. "He was 87-91 (mph) and throws four pitches for strikes. It was a really, really good start for him."

Keenan Kish, Ryan Harris and Corey Stump combined for five scoreless innings to close the game. Florida returns to action on Wednesday night when it hosts Florida A&M at 7 p.m. The Gators will send Johnny Magliozzi (1-0, 4.76 ERA) or Justin Shafer to the mound.

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