Florida dominates on the mound in win

Friday night went perfect to the script Kevin O'Sullivan created. The Gators collected their first opening night shutout since 2006, walked one hitter and played perfect defense. Bobby Poyner made the best start of his career, tossing 5.1 shutout innings while the Gators completed a 4-0 win over Maryland to start the season.

Poyner only got into serious trouble one inning. He allowed a single and a double to start the second inning, giving Maryland two runners in scoring position. The junior left-hander, who has never been known as a strikeout pitcher, struck out back-to-back hitters. Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan called for an intentional walk to load the bases with two outs, and Poyner struck out the nine-hole hitter to get out of the jam.

When the runners got on base, Poyner threw more breaking balls than normal. They produced the swings and misses that he needed.

"I just knew I had to strike a guy out," Bobby Poyner said. "It's a little out of character for me. I had to get it, and that's what I was going for. I was happy I didn't give up any runs and got us back in the dugout."

It's the reason O'Sullivan gave the ball to Poyner on opening night. He wanted a veteran out on the mound that had pitched in big situations before and wouldn't be overwhelmed by the emotions of opening night.

"He just made some big pitches," Kevin O'Sullivan said. "That's what we've come to expect from him."

Maryland starter Jake Stinnett almost matched Poyner, but gave up three hits in the third inning to get Florida on the board. Only one of them was hit hard, and Stinnett held Florida to just three run in five innings while striking out seven hiters.

"He's 90-94 (mph), and I'm thinking, who does the scheduling?" O'Sullivan said with a laugh. "He had about as good of an arm as we're going to see."

The Florida offense came in the third inning, sparked by the three freshmen in the starting lineup. After freshman Pete Alonso got the Gators' first hit of the season to lead off the inning, fellow freshman Buddy Reed walked. Richie Martin singled to load the bases with one out.

Freshman outfielder Ryan Larson followed by tapping a weak ground ball to third base. Maryland third baseman Jose Cuas flipped the ball with his glove accurately to the plate, but catcher Kevin Martir dropped the ball, allowing Alonso to score on a slide. Reed kept running as he approached third base and saw the ball get just feet away from the catcher, scoring on a bang-bang play to give the Gators an early 2-0 lead.

"I didn't see any of it. I got to first and turned around, then Buddy comes around, and I was like, ‘whoa.' Fast," Larson said. "He's really fast."

The decision to go home came from Reed. Third base coach Craig Bell didn't tell him to, and if Reed waited for his approval, it would've been too late. He trusted his instincts and made a play the coaches have been seeing from him since he stepped on campus.

"They stress hustle at the University of Florida," Reed said. "I have a motto -- never stop running. My mom always told me to do it and the coaches told me to do it. So I just never stopped running."

O'Sullivan added, "You don't see it too often. It was instinctual and a heck of a play."

Two batters later, catcher Taylor Gushue followed with a single to center field to push the lead to 3-0. Gushue added a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning to add the final run.

The series continues on Saturday when the Gators try to clinch the series win over Maryland. Florida will send freshman right-hander Brett Morales to the mound. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.


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