Gators secure road win at Jacksonville

It was a typical sloppy midweek game, but the Gators found a way to win. That's the most important thing for this young Florida team and the reason head coach Kevin O'Sullivan remains optimistic despite his team's mistakes. The Gators pulled out an 8-5 win at Jacksonville on Tuesday.

"We went on the road with an inexperienced team and came out with a win," Kevin O'Sullivan said on his postgame radio show. "We're going to look at the positives."

A two-run seventh inning gave the Gators a 6-5 lead that they would continue to build, but it came after some intelligent base running. Jacksonville reliever Jimmy Appleby came into the game with Florida runners on second and third. His first pitch went to the backstop, allowing Casey Turgeon to score to tie the game at five.

A few pitches later, Appleby bounced a pitch to the plate, and freshman outfielder Harrison Bader read it perfectly. The ball bounced off the chest of the catcher and went about four feet in front of home plate. Bader didn't hesitate. Jacksonville catcher Drew Luther was slow to go after the ball, and Bader slid into home plate to give the Gators the lead for the final time.

"Bader played really well," O'Sullivan said. "The ball in the dirt bounces in front of the catcher and he scores. You usually see that when the ball goes to the left or right of the catcher. You don't see it that often in front of the catcher. It's a real instinctual play."

Bader finished the game 3-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored. He also made some nice plays in the outfield.

Casey Turgeon, who hit leadoff for the second time in his career, started the game with a leadoff home run. It was the first leadoff home run for a Florida player since Nolan Fontana did it in the 2010 Gainesville Regional.

"We've been working really hard with him going the other way," O'Sullivan said.

While Turgeon gave the Gators an early lead, sophomore right-hander Justin Shafer gave Florida a strong start. He went five innings, allowing seven hits, three walks and three runs while striking out three on 85 pitches.

O'Sullivan was happy to stretch him out and potentially have Shafer to become a consistent midweek starter.

"Shafer did a nice job," O'Sullivan said. "He got off to a really good start. It was a solid outing for him, and we need to get him sharper because I feel like he can be effective in the middle of the week or out of the pen at some point."

When Shafer came out, the young middle relief group struggled. Freshmen Mike Vinson and Parker Danciu combined to get two outs but give up two walks and two runs. With the young pitchers struggling to find the plate, O'Sullivan went to closer Johnny Magliozzi in the sixth inning.

He tossed the final 3.1 scoreless innings while allowing two base runners and striking out six.

"Great to see Mags," O'Sullivan said. "He came in and did an outstanding job. We were needing a lift like that tonight. It got hairy there after some of the freshmen came in and couldn't find the strike zone."

His outing also showed the younger pitchers have effective they can be by just throwing strikes. That was the biggest issue for the freshmen on Tuesday, and Magliozzi used mostly his fastball to cruise through the last third of the game.

"You really do not have to make this game hard," O'Sullivan said. "If you execute and the ball is down, you've got a chance to be successful. That's what Mags proved tonight. He didn't even have to use his breaking ball or changeup.

"(The young pitchers) need to figure it out in a hurry. I know the guys I can count on out of the pen, but we're going to need some more help as we go along."

The need for more help continues on Wednesday when Jacksonville makes the trek to Gainesville to finish off the two-game midweek series. First pitch will take place at 7 p.m. at McKethan Stadium.

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