Florida showcases power, speed at UCF

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Gators were ready to prove the weekend was a fluke. Despite winning the series over Duke this weekend, Florida players and coaches felt like they didn't play their best baseball. No. 15 Florida showed some of what it could do on Tuesday night, using its speed on the bases, electric arms out of the bullpen and timely power at the plate to secure a 5-3 win over UCF.

"In the big picture, it was a big win for us," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We did not play as well as we could have this weekend. Going on the road for our first road game in a different environment, I thought (the team) handled it well.

"This weekend wasn't indicative of what we think our club can be."

The Gators didn't waste time showing what they could be. It had a lot to do with their speed, and it wasn't present over the weekend for one reason — it didn't get on base. That changed on Tuesday. Freshman left fielder Harrison Bader and freshman shortstop Richie Martin combined to go 5-for-10.

They didn't steal a base, but the speed still changed the game. After Martin had a one-out single in the first inning, Casey Turgeon rolled a single into left field. Martin never hesitated and took third base with ease. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Justin Shafer to give Florida a lead.

The speed made a difference and the plan is for it to continue doing so the rest of the season.

"We just try to get on base and do whatever we can for our team," Martin said of himself and Bader. "We have more defined hitters. We just try to get on base in front of them so they can get some RBIs. We can cause some havoc on the bases."

The Florida offense continued to tick away with its speed and athleticism, but they didn't lack power. Vickash Ramjit gave the Gators a 2-0 lead with a towering solo home run in the second inning, and Zack Powers hit his third home run in four at-bats, dating back to Sunday, with a solo home run in the fourth inning to give Florida a 3-0 lead.

The speed isn't much of a surprise. The Gators have recruited enough of it in recent years to be able to change the game in that area. The power has been a pleasant surprise for O'Sullivan. Through four games this season, the Gators have five home runs, the same number last year's power-heavy team had.

Powers had a streak going of reaching base in six straight at-bats, but that ended with a fly out in the ninth inning. Either way, his recent hot streak has been a shot in the arm to a team that needed it.

The redshirt sophomore ended the game 3-for-4 with one walk, two runs scored and one RBI. He also got his first start at third base after missing all of last season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He called it a smooth transition back.

"It's like riding a bike," Powers said. "I was just happy to be back out there. I love third, and I love being back out there. As soon as you get the first throw out of the way, all of them after that come easy."

After Ramjit reached on an error to start the sixth inning, Powers singled into shallow left field. UCF third baseman Chris Taladay was in short left field trying to catch the ball, and Ramjit took third after realizing there was no one at the base. Powers followed and made it into second base.

Kevin Stypulkowski and Cody Dent both struck out after the Powers at-bat, but the Gators got lucky. Bader rolled a ground ball to UCF shortstop Tommy Williams, who threw the ball away and allowed both runs to score.

On the mound, Florida freshman Parker Danciu threw 3.1 innings and picked up the win in relief. Sophomore closer Johnny Magliozzi was the most impressive. He tossed the final 1.2 innings, not allowing a base runner and striking out two hitters.

"It was great to see Mags, once again," O'Sullivan said. "He comes in under control with three pitches for strikes."

The Gators will now face Georgia Southern on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Gainesville. The Eagles took two games against Georgia to win the series over the weekend. Sophomore right-hander Justin Shafer will get the start at McKethan Stadium.

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