Powers launches two grand slams in series win

Zack Powers didn't step into the batter's box once last season. He didn't slip on his glove to take the field, either. Powers was sidelined with a medical redshirt stemming from a shoulder injury for the Gators' '12 season. But in the rubber game against Duke Sunday, the junior started at first base, hitting in the No. 7 hole, firing two grand slams and nine RBI in Florida's 16-5 victory.

Prior to Sunday, Powers had already made appearances in the Gators' first two games against the Blue Devils.

Friday, Powers pinch-hit for right fielder Cory Reid in the eighth inning, flying out in left field for his season debut. He continued the duration of the game at first base for senior captain Vickash Ramjit as the Gators went on to lose the season-opener 4-3.

In Saturday's 4 p.m. game, Powers was penned as the designated hitter, slugging seventh in the batting order. Though he struck out swinging in his first faceoff against Duke right-hander Drew Van Orden, Powers followed with a single into right field in the fourth inning. He stole second and advanced to third, but was left stranded. Reid came in to pinch-hit for Powers in the sixth to end his play for the night.

On Sunday, Powers was printed as a starter once again, this time at first base. After grounding out to second base lead off the second inning and walking in the fourth, he pulled a sac fly in deep center field in the sixth to score Casey Turgeon, tying the game at 3. It marked Powers' first RBI of the matchup. Josh Tobias soon followed with a single to left center to score Ramjit and starting pitcher Justin Shafer. Senior Cody Dent singled to right field to score Tobias to put Florida in the lead 6-3 heading into the seventh inning.

After a quick 1-2-3 seventh inning for sophomore right-hander Ryan Harris, the Gators continued their momentum at the plate with a leadoff single into right field from freshman shortstop Richie Martin. Though he was picked off, Turgeon and freshman Kevin Stypulkowski were walked by Duke right-hander Kenny Koplove. Ramjit was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Right-hander Ryan Munger took the hill for Duke to tackle the pressure situation for the Blue Devils. Powers took hold of a fastball to nail a grand slam over the right field wall, carrying Florida to a 10-3 lead.

"I was just trying to get a base hit and help out the team and get another RBI," Powers said.

Though the Blue Devils answered back in the top of the eighth to close the gap 10-5, it was déjà vu for Powers when he took the plate with a two-out deficit at the bottom of the inning. The bases were loaded with Reid, Stypulkowski and Turgeon, when Powers was served yet another fastball, which he cranked over the right-field wall — his second grand slam to up the lead 16-5, which stuck as the final score to nab Florida the series.

"The second time, I kind of got greedy and wanted to go for it," Powers said.

Head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said the Seffner, Fla., native tore his meniscus the second-half of his freshman year and hurt his labrum just before what would have been his second season.

"I'm just pleased that he's healthy and that he's contributing like we always knew he could," O'Sullivan said.

Powers said his time off of play allowed him to learn things such as the importance of offensive counts and slowing the game down while playing loose and relaxed.

"It's great to actually have that year to sit out," he said. "You learn a lot more sitting on the bench than what you would think. You really pick it up. It slows the game down."

After the game, Powers joked, saying his teammates and coaches just said "good game" to him and that he'd score extra food during the team's postgame meal.

"It's great to have a good game like this, but it's great to actually be back in playing," Powers said. "To have a game like this is real special in itself."

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