Baseball practice observations: 10/17

The Gators went under the lights on Thursday night, and there were multiple freshmen on the mound during the fourth scrimmage of the fall.

I made this scrimmage a priority because of the opportunity to see some of the highly touted freshman class on the mound, and they didn't disappoint.

It started with left-hander A.J. Puk. His 6-6 frame is the first thing that jumps out when he pitches. There's not a lot of deception, but he got plenty of ground balls through three shutout innings that came with three strikeouts.

Puk had some normal freshman issues on Thursday. He cruised through the first two innings before running into deep counts and walking hitters. Puk was able to calm down and get out of his third inning of work without any runs scoring. He gave up just one hit in the first two innings, coming out a bloop single to center field that wasn't hit hard. Puk has the look of an immediate impact freshman on the mound this spring.

The most dominant outing of the night came from freshman right-hander Dane Dunning. He's 6-3 with a skinny frame now, but there's room for it to fill out and gain weight. Dunning has some sink to his fastball that produced ground balls on Thursday, but his pitch that got the most swings and misses was his curveballs. It's hard with 11-to-5 break. The catcher behind the plate when Dunning was on the mound struggled to keep the curveball in front of him, even when it wasn't in the dirt.

There were at least five swings and misses in three innings. Dunning's work came against key Florida hitters like Taylor Gushue, Casey Turgeon and Justin Shafer. He faced the meat of the Florida order and had a lot of success.

Tyler Deel and Jay Carmichael also pitched. Deel started out slow, working deep counts and giving up hits to start the inning. He settled in and had a solid outing. Carmichael got hit at times, but he used his breaking ball well to get swings and misses. He struggled early in the outing and got better as it went on.

I got to see some of freshman left-hander Kirby Snead before having to leave. Head coach Kevin O'Sullivan likes the low-angle left-hander, and it's easy to see why. The Santa Fe High School alum isn't a side armer, but he'll create some difficult at-bats for left-handed hitters.

The best hitter was Taylor Gushue. On Wednesday, he hit a long home run from the left side of the plate. On Thursday, it was a towering home run to left-center from the right side of the plate off Deel. It's only two practices, but Gushue has been locked in for the past two days. The Gators need a consistent junior season out of him.

Harrison Bader has also been impressive at the plate. He doubled to left-center on a ball that bounced twice before getting to the ball, then doubled off the base of the center field wall. His third at-bat was a fly out to the warning track in right field. The strength added is noticeable on his frame, but the good news for Bader is that it looks like it has translated to the plate.

Junior college transfer Jason Lombardozzi had two hits, including a two-run triple into the right field corner. He will be a solid defensive infielder.

Freshman Pete Alonso made the play of the day at third base, diving to catch a ball that was destined for a single to left field, then popping up and throwing to first base for the final out of the inning. Alonso and fellow freshman John Sternagel had good offensive nights, too.

Fightin Gators Top Stories