Gators take series opener in Tuscaloosa

Logan Shore's dominance continued on the road. The freshman right-hander fired six shutout innings in Tuscaloosa, allowing just three runners to reach scoring position. His success on the mound held the Crimson Tide down until the Florida offense could jump out to a lead, as the Gators won their ninth straight SEC game with a 7-3 win at Alabama.

The win held Florida's two-game lead in the SEC over Ole Miss, who beat Arkansas on Friday. The SEC East lead jumped to four games over South Carolina and Vanderbilt. It's the first time the Gators have won nine straight games in the SEC since 2001.

It all started with Logan Shore. He picked up his sixth win in conference play, more than any other pitching in the SEC. On Friday, he allowed five hits (four singles and one double) without walking anyone and recording three strikeouts.

"He was really sharp on the mound," Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan said on postgame radio. "He made big pitches when he needed to. He has set the tone for us on Friday nights. The guy on Friday night is just a different breed. He has to set the tone. You can't go to the bullpen in the third inning.

"He has to set the tone for the weekend, give your team a chance and have confidence. It's remarkable what he's been able to do. It's pretty special stuff."

Justin Shafer and Bobby Poyner ran into trouble, allowing three runs, but Eric Hanhold came out of the bullpen to throw two perfect innings with three strikeouts to earn his third save of the season.

The Florida offense took advantage of what the Alabama pitching staff got it. On Friday, that was mostly walks. The Crimson Tide pitchers walked nine hitters compared to the Gators' pitched staff walking zero hitters. Of Florida's seven runs, five of the runners originally reached on a walk.

Alabama ace Spencer Turnbull came into Friday with some control problems, and the Gators wanted to make sure they took pitches and worked his pitch count up on Friday.

"We try to do that with guys in the past that have struggled to throw strikes," O'Sullivan said. "We came in with the mindset that we were going to force him to throw, get his pitch count up, and our guys did a nice job."

Florida scored its first two runs in the fifth inning after Casey Turgeon tried to sacrifice two runners into scoring position, but Alabama threw the ball away to allow one to score. Two batters later, Harrison Bader rolled an RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0. Florida's three-run eighth inning pushed the lead to 6-0 before Alabama fought back for three runs in the bottom half of the inning, but Hanhold came out of the bullpen to erase any doubts.

Florida left 12 men on base, made two errors and didn't execute in multiple sacrifice bunt situations. O'Sullivan didn't want to diminish the importance of a Friday night win in the SEC, but he used it to show the team how good they can be in the future.

"I think this team has a chance to be really good," O'Sullivan said. "It shows how good we can be by beating one of the better Friday night guys on the road without playing their best game. We're going to have to come back and play sharper, but we've got gritty kids and got it done when we needed to."

Game two is at 4 p.m. and will be televised by CBS Sports Network. Florida will send reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week Aaron Rhodes to the mound after he threw a one-hit shutout against Missouri last weekend.

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