Shore leads Gators to SEC win

Freshman Logan Shore had a little extra energy before taking the mound as the starting pitcher in Florida's Southeastern Conference opener. The right-hander continued his early season dominance by allowing just one run over 6.1 innings against Arkansas. The success on the mound for the Gators helped them earn a 2-1 win in the SEC opener.

When Shore took the mound on Friday, the extra energy was hard to miss. He was 92-93 mph in the first inning, rarely touching those numbers in any of his previous 20 innings of his freshman season. He struck out the final two hitters in the first inning with his extra velocity and had the demeanor of a seasoned veteran in the conference opener.

"I think the strikeouts might've boosted his confidence a little bit to boost him further into the game," Florida catcher Taylor Gushue said. "He carved it up tonight. For a freshman to come out in his first SEC game and do that, it's unbelievable. It was all working tonight."

Shore got his first Friday night start of the season last week against Connecticut and proved he could handle the extra excitement and pressure that comes with that role. On Friday, he dodged another hurdle, showing he could handle it in SEC play against a storied program like Arkansas.

The right-hander ended his night throwing 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits, one run and two walks while striking out five hitters.

"This is when the real part of the season starts," Logan Shore said. "This is where we need to be playing our best ball, and we played like it tonight. I had some extra adrenaline going in the early innings."

In 26.1 innings this season, Shore has allowed 20 hits, two earned runs, four walks and recorded 21 strikeouts. His season ERA dropped to 0.68 after Friday's outing.

His performance reminded coach Kevin O'Sullivan of ones a former Florida ace used to have.

"Logan Shore – that's as good of a start as we've had here," O'Sullivan said. "That was kind of like Hudson Randall."

Shore exited after allowing back-to-back one-out singles to the last two hitters in the Arkansas lineup in the seventh inning. Left-hander Bobby Poyner came in and got a ground out to move both runners up. Aaron Rhodes came out of the Florida bullpen and got a strikeout to get out of the jam.

Rhodes ended the game with a perfect 2.1 innings, recording six of his seven outs by strikeout. The only hitter that made contact against Rhodes came with a weak ground out for the second out of the ninth inning.

"That's the best he has thrown," O'Sullivan said about Rhodes. "He strikes out six of seven and locates. He cut the ball loose. His arm was live, he located his slider and threw a couple changeups to left-handers. But he located really, really well."

Rhodes touched 95 mph a few times on the Florida scoreboard, but it was his slider that served as the knockout pitch. He struck out the side looking in the eighth inning.

"I had a lot of adrenaline," Rhodes said. "I felt like I really did (have my best stuff tonight). My fastball was located and my slider was good."

Gushue added, "From start to finish, he was aggressive and throwing everything for strikes. That was pretty unhittable stuff."

The Florida offense manufactured two runs off Arkansas ace Jalen Beeks. The Gators got on the board with RBI ground outs from Pete Alonso and Casey Turgeon, scoring runs in the first and third innings, respectively. It wasn't pretty, but that's the expectation in conference play.

"This is what Friday nights in the SEC probably look like," O'Sullivan said. "This was one of the cleanest games we've played all year.

"I know we only scored two runs but when you knock out a Friday night starter in the fifth inning, that's pretty good. He's a veteran guy and he's good. He's going to win a ton of games this year."

Florida took the series opener and goes for the series win over the Razorbacks on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Gators will send right-hander Eric Hanhold to the mound, making his first start of the season while replacing struggling junior Karsten Whitson.

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