Florida freshmen struggle on the mound

The veterans of the Florida pitching staff did the job on Friday. The freshmen couldn't match the production on Saturday. One day after veterans combined for a three-hit shutout, three Florida freshmen allowed eight runs in 6.2 innings as Maryland evened the series with a 9-7 win over the Gators at McKethan Stadium.

Freshman Brett Morales earned the start on Saturday after dominating Florida hitters during fall and spring scrimmages, but on Saturday, even the outs he recorded were hit hard. The former Perfect Game All-American lasted just 3.1 innings, giving up five hits, two walks and five runs while striking out zero Maryland hitters.

His fastball, usually in the low 90s during the offseason, topped at 89 mph on the scoreboard. Maryland hitters were rarely fooled -- two of the 10 outs Morales recorded were on lineouts and two on sacrifice bunts.

"We didn't get off to a great start on the mound, but we'll learn," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "Brett will be better. He got the start today because he's been throwing the ball really good. He's better than what he did today. It was probably first start nerves, and I expect him to be much better next time."

Morales exited the game with only three earned runs charged to him, but fellow high school All-American A.J. Puk relieved him and allowed back-to-back two out hits to push the lead to 5-0 when the fourth inning ended.

Puk tossed 2.2 innings, allowing only one earned run. Fellow freshman Kirby Snead relieved him and gave up back-to-back hits to start the seventh inning before he was pulled. Only one of the two scored after Aaron Rhodes came into the game.

It was only the first outing for the Florida freshmen on Saturday, but their inability to execute put the Gators in a deep hole early.

"It's disappointing," O'Sullivan said. "We've just got to do a better job. We made young mistakes, three mistakes in 0-2 counts. Those things need to improve."

The Florida offense struggled until the final four innings of the game, mostly because of the dominant work of Maryland freshman Mike Shawaryn. The Gators scored in three innings, but after all three, Maryland got right back on the scoreboard to steal the momentum.

The Gators rallied late, but it wasn't enough to tie or win the game. The Gators scored three runs in the eighth inning on a two-run single by Buddy Reed and an RBI single by Richie Martin, but with two outs and the tying run on third, freshman left field Ryan Larson swung over the top of a 3-2 slider to end the inning with Florida still trailing 8-7.

The Terrapins added a run in the ninth inning when Brandon Lowe hit a solo home run off Danny Young.

The Florida offense used a two-out rally to score three runs in the sixth inning. Casey Turgeon scored on a wild pitch, followed by Taylor Gushue scoring on a Maryland error. Braden Mattson singled in the third run to record his first hit as a Gator.

The teams will play the deciding game on Sunday at 12 p.m. Florida will send redshirt junior Karsten Whitson to the mound for his first start since 2012.

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