Young pitchers debut from bullpen

When the Gators squared up for the season's first showdown Friday night, five of the six pitchers who took the mound had already stood there before. But in Saturday's chance for orange and blue redemption, the majority of those perched on the hill were making their college debuts. Freshman pitchers Tucker Simpson and Parker Danciu joined veteran Johnny Magliozzi in Florida's 4-2 win against Duke.

Simpson, a right-hander out of Oxford, Ala., was penned as UF's starter for Saturday's contest after proving himself throughout the fall. The 6'6, 220-pound freshman commanded the mound from the get-go, holding Duke scoreless through three innings.

"I thought Tucker's start was good," coach Kevin O'Sullivan said.

It wasn't until the fourth inning that the Blue Devils' offense answered back, when catcher Mike Rosenfeld led off with a single into shallow center field. Florida catcher Taylor Gushue threw a ball in the dirt in his attempt to catch Rosenfeld's steal, putting Duke into scoring position for designated hitter Chris Marconcini.

Marconcini pulled a two-run homerun over the left-field wall to diminish Florida's comfortable lead at the helm of Casey Turgeon's three-run homerun in the first inning.

However, Simpson finished his outing by chalking up three consecutive outs following Marconcini's homer.

By the end of his line, Simpson had registered two hits, two runs, two walks and three strikeouts in the 16 batters he faced. After 71 pitches, he left the game sitting at a 4.50 ERA.

Danciu, a lefthander from Delray Beach, Fla., was the next arm out of the pen for Florida, starting his go at the top of the fifth. The freshman said O'Sullivan had told him previously that he would be the first guy out Saturday night, scheduled to go in for long relief. Danciu prepared accordingly leading up to his debut, he said.

"I was watching to see where the umpire's zone was and what to do in certain situations," he said. "I actually talked to a lot of my teammates to help me."

Though Danciu allowed a leadoff walk to Duke centerfielder Anthony D'Alessandro, he followed to send pinch hitter David Perkins back to the dugout after he struck out looking. D'Alessandro came alive on the bases stealing second and reaching third on Gushue's throw. But Danciu emerged from the jam with the help of the Florida defense on two groundouts.

The lefty retired the Blue Devils in order in the seventh, but got stuck in the eighth after leftfielder Andrew Istler reached first on a single to fellow freshman Richie Martin at shortstop. Florida's defense helped lift Danciu back into safety at the hands of the following batter, rightfielder Jeff Kremer. Kremer stuck his team into a double play after pulling a ball into the hands of senior captain Vickash Ramjit at first.

"I made a good pitch and we got to turn a double play," Danciu said. "That was big for us."

Danciu finished his appearance allowing a walk to Rosenfeld before Magliozzi came in to close. The 6'3, 210-pound newcomer paced through 3.2 innings, allowing two hits, two walks and chalking up two strikeouts in the 14 batters he faced throughout his 49-pitch appearance.

"I thought a lot of my off-speed was working real well today," Danciu said. "I just put the ball over the plate and my teammates were real good behind me."

After a solid 13-pitch appearance from Magliozzi, the freshman was credited with his first collegiate victory.

"We have a lot of good guys," Danciu said. "We've got a lot of depth in the bullpen. I'm glad coach called upon me, and I went out there and I did my best."

Rifling through only three pitchers Saturday night opposed to Friday's six, Florida preserved arms in the bullpen for Sunday's rubber game.

O'Sullivan said he still has three freshmen he'd like to see on the mound this weekend: right-handers Jay Carmichael, Eric Hanhold and Mike Vinson while sophomore Justin Shafer is slated for the start. Florida's head coach said he was pleased with the freshmen debuts overall stemming from game 2.

"At any point in the season, you can throw two freshman out there — I don't care who you're playing — and you can throw two runs on the board almost through eight innings," O'Sullivan said. "You have to feel really good about (that)."

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