Shafer's Strange Night Propels Gators

No one on Florida had ever seen a line in the box score like the one Justin Shafer had on Wednesday. The freshman went 1-for-2 at the plate against Florida A&M but found a way to drive in six runs. Shafer had three sacrifice flies, including one that scored two runs, and a two-run double before striking out the side in the ninth inning to clinch a 15-2 win for No. 1 Florida.

"I have never seen a line like that," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said with a laugh. "What's even better than that is he was 0-for-0 with four (RBI) until his double. He stung the ball all night long. It's a great night for him."

Shafer had a sacrifice fly in the first and third innings. The strange sacrifice fly came in the sixth inning. The freshman launched a ball to deep right-center field, but Florida A&M center fielder Scott Sheplak made a diving catch on the warning track.

Florida second baseman Cody Dent scored easily from third when the ball was caught. Shortstop Nolan Fontana was on second base and knew he had a chance to score after watching Sheplak dive and make the catch. He left for third base and started to widen his turn as he got closer to the base.

Third base coach Craig Bell never hesitated. He waved him all the way around and Fontana beat the throw to the plate.

"I saw him dive and catch it, then I took off and picked up Craig," Fontana said. "I never really turned around and saw him."

Shafer didn't even know what happened. He had a bad view of the play, so he kept running because he thought the ball might have hit the ground. It might have been a triple if the ball fell but soon became a two-run sacrifice fly.

"I saw Nolan going, and I didn't know what was going on," Justin Shafer said. "I was just jogging behind him and following him."

It might look like just some fly balls, but Shafer hit them well and just missed a few extra base hits. Despite his success, he gave his teammates the credit for driving in six runs.

"My team was on base, so I didn't have to do much but hit a pop up every time I came up," Shafer said. "The guys in front of me did a great job of getting on base, so I didn't have to do much except put it in play somehow to score everybody."

Shafer then put the exclamation point on the game by striking out the side in the ninth inning. He spent time talking to Austin Maddox in the offseason about the demands of hitting and pitching because Shafer noticed he was struggling to do both successfully. After Maddox told him to slow things down and relax, Shafer has been successful in both areas.

"He needed to get an inning there at the end," O'Sullivan said. "It was really great for him to throw a clean inning. He's a baseball player. He gets it and competes."

Preston Tucker and Fontana each had two RBI. Fontana and Josh Tobias, despite going 0-for-2, each scored three runs. O'Sullivan was also able to get starters rest for the second game in a row. When the game ended, Shafer, Dent, Tobias and Tucker were the only four starters left in the lineup.

On the mound, freshman John Magliozzi gave up two runs and six hits in his three-inning start. His location wasn't great as he missed over the heart of the plate at times and got hurt because of it.

"He just got a couple balls up—nothing major," O'Sullivan said. "It was nothing major. He'll pitch better the next time he goes out."

Behind him, the Florida bullpen combined for six shutout innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out eight hitters. Greg Larson threw three of those innings before Daniel Gibson, Ryan Harris and Shafer each threw an inning to close the game.

After the game, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan announced that sophomore third baseman Zack Powers (shoulder) won't play this season. O'Sullivan said it was an injury to his labrum that requires surgery and will force him to miss the rest of the 2012 season.

"He has decided with his family and our training staff that the best thing for him is to redshirt. He dislocated his shoulder before the season started. He spent the last month trying to rehab it, but it has not come back to the point where he feels comfortable.

"He'll go ahead and get his surgery and get the labrum cleaned up so he can be ready to go next fall. I'm not real happy about it. He's obviously disappointed. He's a tough kid that wants to be out there, but at this point, the best thing is probably for him to go ahead and get that thing fixed."

Powers will be eligible for the 2013 season as a redshirt sophomore.

Florida returns to action this weekend when it hosts Florida Gulf Coast on Friday at 7 p.m. The Gators will send junior right-hander Hudson Randall (2-0, 4.15 ERA) to the mound for the series opener.

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