UF crushes UNF in comfortable victory

Florida finally managed to grasp something from North Florida that has recently been caught slipping through their fingers: the lead. In their 9-4 victory over the Ospreys Tuesday, the Gators held the advantage throughout the entire contest and chalked up the first win for a UF starting pitcher for the first time in 24 games — a deficit dating back to last season.

Freshman right-hander Tucker Simpson earned the nod as the midweek starter — his first go on the mound since the start of SEC play. The last outing the 6'6 Alabama native had on the hill was when he hurled 1.1 innings of relief in the March 12th loss to FSU when he issued two strikeouts, allowed one hit and suffered no walks in 17 pitches.

Simpson kept the Ospreys off the board in his first inning of work after letting up a leadoff single to UNF second baseman Joe Wielbruda. However, UNF right-hander pitcher David Trexler failed to do the same against the Gators' offense on the brink of his start.

In the first, he let up a one-out single to UF left fielder Harrison Bader, extending the freshman's hitting streak to six games. But Florida's woes on the base paths resurfaced and he was caught stealing. Florida hit the scoreboard when Drexler surrendering a two-out, two-run homer to sophomore designated hitter Justin Shafer. Shafer's bomb over the left-field bleachers brought he and third baseman Zack Powers (who was walked) home.

After quick, 1-2-3 showings for both sides in the second, the Ospreys knocked the board in the third off nine-hitter and catcher Corey Bass' one-out home run over the right-field wall to put the score 2-1.

UF didn't execute runs again until the fourth inning when UF catcher Taylor Gushue led off with a home run over the left-field wall against the UNF's second pitcher of the night left-hander Jamie Cardwell. The homer was his first since last season against Vanderbilt.

"It felt good to get it out of the way," Gushue said. "It's tough just sitting around (wondering), ‘OK, when's it going to happen?'"

Gushue joked, saying his teammates gave him a friendly silent treatment when he returned to the dugout.

After pegging first baseman Vickash Ramjit and right fielder Connor Mitchell, the Ospreys pulled Cardwell and swapped him for right-hander Corbin Olmstead. But the heat of Florida's at-bats flowed into the hands of second baseman Josh Tobias who singled through the left side to load the bases with no outs. Ramjit scored off shortstop Casey Turgeon's sac fly to center to put the Gators at a 4-1 advantage.

Simpson continued to command the hill for Florida into the sixth inning, but was pulled after allowing back-to-back, two-out singles. The freshman finished with a line of six hits, three runs, one walk and five strikeouts in 74 pitches.

Designated hitter Justin Shafer nabbed the call from the bullpen. His first batter faced, third baseman Paul Karmeris, pulled a two-run double to left-center field to scrape the Gators' lead to a one-run contest at 4-3. Shafer registered the strikeout for his second batter of the night.

The bottom of the sixth inning marked North Florida's third pitching change of the contest, opting for right-hander Ryan McMahon. Olmstead and McMahon froze Florida from the board in the sixth, combining to retire the Gators in order.

Shafer surrendered a shaky seventh, allowing a one-out single and firing a wild pitch. However, he was able to halt the Ospreys as they left one stranded on the base paths.

McMahon, too, flashed trouble in the seventh after issuing the leadoff walk to Gators center fielder Cody Dent and allowing a single on Turgeon. Bader's sacrifice bunt moved Dent and Turgeon to second and third for Powers, prompting a UNF pitching change to LHP Spencer Herrmann.

The lefty fired a wild pitch to bring Dent across the plate and Powers' RBI double down the left-field line upped Florida's lead 6-3. Shafer was walked and paired with Powers to post a double steal to put runners on second and third for Gushue. However, Gushue grounded out and Ramjit popped out to strand the runners.

UF put in right-hander Ryan Harris in the eighth, plugging Shafer's outing at 16 pitches. The sophomore achieved a quick 1-2-3 showing for his first bit of work.

"The bullpen was filthy today," Gushue said.

UNF followed suit entering a new pitcher into the matchup, opting for right-hander Trey Ferrano. Ferrano continued North Florida's defensive struggles, walking Mitchell on four pitches, letting up a fielder's choice to Tobias and an RBI single to Dent up the score 7-3. Bader's success at the plate continued as he registered an infield single to load the bases. Powers was walked to bring Dent across the plate to widen the lead 8-3. This cued the Ospreys' to enter their seventh pitcher of the night: RHP Marshal Rosenberger. He fired a wild pitch to plate Florida's ninth run of the game and walked Shafer to load the bases. However, pinch hitter Kevin Stypulkowski grounded into a double play to close the inning.

Sophomore right-hander Johnny Magliozzi took the hill in the ninth to close. After letting up a two-out single and RBI triple, the Gators finalized the contest at 9-4.

"It was good to get the lead — to hold onto the lead," UF head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said.

The wide win was a stark contrast to UF's last home matchup against UNF Feb. 26th when the Gators fell to the Ospreys 6-7 in 10 innings.

O'Sullivan praised his team's aggression at the plate in Tuesday's win.

"It was a game that I thought we did a lot of things well in," he said, "and we obviously could use a little momentum going into the weekend."

The Gators hit the road for an SEC series against Vanderbilt beginning Friday.

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