Practice report: 1/25

The plan for Saturday's scrimmage was to get most of the freshmen pitchers on the mound for two innings each. The Florida coaches aren't sure who will fill the starting pitching roles available, so the goal is to stretch out most pitchers on the team in preparation to start.

Most of the freshmen looked like it was their first year on Saturday. Dane Dunning, Brett Morales, A.J. Puk and Logan Shore were the four freshmen that threw, joined by junior Bobby Poyner and sophomore Danny Young.

As you'd expect, the freshmen were inconsistent. Shore was the first one on the mound and gave up four runs in the first inning. He was hit hard, walked hitters and fell behind in counts. He was only two outs into the first inning when head coach Kevin O'Sullivan called the whole team together on the mound and spent 10 minutes telling them to get things together after a slow start.

Shore improved with a better second inning of work. His slider got better and was located better in the second inning, but the key to his turnaround was better fastball location.

A.J. Puk or Brett Morales had the best day of the freshmen.

Puk struck out two in his first inning of work, using the changeup both times to get the final strike. He's the definition of a downhill pitcher, and it's a different angle than hitters are used to. He also made a nice, backhanded play up the line while playing first base. Puk's second inning was sloppier. He fell behind in counts but managed to work through it without allowing a run.

Morales made only one bad pitch on Saturday. It came to the first batter he faced, leaving a fastball over the middle of the plate that Josh Tobias hit into the left field bleachers. He settled in after that and looked much better. His curveball is going to be a really good pitch for him this season. He faced Tobias during his second inning of work and froze him with it.

Dane Dunning was one of the two best freshmen pitchers in the fall, but he didn't look like it on Saturday. He gave up a walk and a single to start his outing but was helped out by a bad bunt from John Sternagel. Two ground outs followed to get him out of the inning without any runs scoring. In his second inning, he cruised through the first two outs before falling behind more hitters and letting walks cause issues.

Scouts in attendance were talking about how much Dunning reminds them of his older brother, Jake Dunning, who is currently in the Major Leagues with the San Francisco Giants.

Danny Young was the best pitcher on Saturday. He often goes overlooked by those outside the program, but the coaches are expecting him to fill a big role this year. He and Bobby Poyner both had strong outings on Saturday and will be important pieces to the rotation.

A few notes on the hitters. Freshman outfielder Ryan Larson had an impressive day. He started the game off with a two-run single off Shore in the first inning. He reached on a bunt base hit later and then stole second base. He can do it all and showed that on Saturday. The coaches are happy with his bunting ability and want him to use it when he has chances.

Not to be outdone, fellow freshman outfielder Buddy Reed was fun to watch. It started in batting practice, as the Florida coaches are working hard with him to hit consistent ground balls through the hole between third base and shortstop. He carried that into the scrimmage by doing exactly that against Dunning.

Early in the scrimmage, Reed bounced a single into right field while facing Shore with a runner on first. The throw from right field came into third base, trying to cut down the lead runner, and Reed never broke stride while cruising into second base. The runner on third scored on a wild pitch, and after catcher Taylor Gushue threw the ball back to Shore, Reed took advantage of neither play paying attention and ran home before the umpire called time. O'Sullivan called Reed a superstar in the making earlier this week, and it's easy to see why.

Tobias was probably the best hitter during the scrimmage. Besides his home run off Morales, he also short-hopped the wall in left-center field off Puk for a double. He flew out to deep left field later. There won't be much pressure on him hitting in the back half of the batting order this year, and Tobias looks ready to put together a strong junior year.

Braden Mattson had an impressive day at the plate. It's easy to see his power, especially in batting practice. He also has power to right-center field. He caught, played outfield and saw time at first base on Saturday. That's likely what he'll do this season -- move around and fill different roles.

Justin Shafer had a big day and continues to hit well. He had two doubles and hit the ball hard another time.

NOTE: Tyler Deel and Ryan Harris also pitched on Saturday, but I had to leave the scrimmage early to get inside the O'Connell Center to cover basketball.

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