Bullpen carrying Gators

The youth on the Florida roster has produced inconsistencies up and down the roster. However, during the current stretch where the Gators have won 12 of their last 15 games, the bullpen has been dominant. Sophomores and junior lead the unit while freshmen continue to find their roles on the staff.

In the last three games, including a 15-inning win over Missouri on Saturday, the Florida bullpen has thrown 23.2 innings, allowing 19 hits, four walks and five earned runs while striking out 19 hitters. It's all coming together because clear roles are starting to develop.

It starts in the back end with closer Johnny Magliozzi. Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan knows he can go to the sophomore for one or multiple innings to get the save. In front of him are two experienced arms -- sophomore right-hander Ryan Harris and junior left-hander Daniel Gibson -- that are logging important innings for the Gators.

"It really starts with Harris, Gibby and then Mags at the end," O'Sullivan said.

Harris showed his value again on Tuesday. With the game close in the fifth inning, Harris came in to get the Gators out of a jam and stayed in to throw 1.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts while the Florida offense gave the team a comfortable lead.

He came in during the sixth inning and hit a batter to load the bases before getting two strikeouts and a fly out to escape without allowing a run.

It's what has made the sophomore right-hander and his bullpen mates so effective this year -- they don't allow inherited runners to score.

"Our pen has been the strength of our team," O'Sullivan said. "Our pen has done a really nice job. It takes a little bit less stress off our starters. If (starters) give us five or six innings, we've got a chance. Those guys have been really good all year long. They've been fairly consistent."

This was the design the Florida coaching staff had in mind before the season started. The idea was to load the bullpen with trusted power arms and try to get as many innings possible out of the starting pitchers before turning it over to the bullpen.

Tuesday was a perfect example of it.

Starting pitcher Bobby Poyner lasted just 3.1 innings, mostly because of a pitch count to keep him available for the weekend, and the bullpen did the rest. The Florida bullpen totaled 5.2 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out eight batters.

During Saturday's 15-inning game at Missouri, the Florida bullpen completed 12.2 scoreless innings in the win. It was a feat O'Sullivan said he has "never seen." The bullpen has continued that recent success, now getting some innings from freshmen that are starting to emerge.

Four freshmen -- Parker Danciu, Eric Hanhold, Aaron Rhodes and Danny Young -- combined to throw four scoreless innings on Tueday. O'Sullivan raved about Hanhold, who threw the final two scoreless innings while striking out three hitters and hitting 94 mph on the scoreboard radar gun multiple times.

"That's about as good as he has looked," O'Sullivan said.

The group has experienced plenty of success, and it's continuing to build more confidence.

"We came in and get our outs," Harris said. "We're working really well together in the bullpen. We've been working really well the last 10 games or so."

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