Gators cruise to win in season opener

There wasn’t much doubt in the outcome on Friday night at McKethan Stadium.

Florida ace Logan Shore threw five shutout innings, nine Florida players got a hit and Rhode Island couldn’t get out of its way, making five errors in the first four innings. The Gators took the lead in the first inning and scored in five of their eight times at the plate, finishing off a 9-1 win over Rhode Island.

“We played really solid baseball throughout,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We didn’t walk anybody and didn’t make an error until late. And a lot of different guys played, able to get a lot of new players in there.”

Last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year, Shore fell behind in more counts than usual on Friday, but he threw five scoreless innings, allowing four hits and striking out four hitters. Shore spent more time working on his curveball, a pitch that was the focus in the offseason. He dominated with a fastball and changeup mostly last year, mixing in the curveball without much confidence.

The pitch got much better in the offseason and showed it on Friday.

“I felt pretty good,” Shore said. “Kind of felt like I was working behind in counts more than I would’ve liked, but it was a good first outing. It gives me something to build off for Miami next weekend. It really was a great team win.”

O’Sullivan blamed Shore falling behind in counts on it being “a tough night to pitch,” with temperatures sitting in the 40s throughout most of the game. The conditions also made the ball slick and tough for Shore to grip on his curveball at times.

“Solid start,” O’Sullivan said. “It was a tough night to pitch. Opening night, you just want to get through it and get his feet wet. I know he was excited to start on opening night, but he was solid.”

Behind him, the bullpen allowed just one hit and no walks while striking out five batters. The lone hit was a solo home run that freshman right-hander Alex Faedo allowed. He combined with Tyler Deel, Taylor Lewis and Mike Vinson to finish the game, with all four bullpen arms throwing one inning.

The offense took advantage of Rhode Island’s mistakes. Rams starter Steve Moyers gave up seven runs, but the first five were unearned. Shortstop Tim Caputo made three errors in the first four innings, making things more difficult on his starting pitcher.

Harrison Bader did the damage for the Gators, getting them on the board with an RBI single in the first inning and stretching the lead with a two-run homer in the fifth inning, knocking Moyers out of the game.

O’Sullivan was able to get multiple newcomers into the game late, adding to the three freshmen that were in the starting lineup. Designated hitter J.J. Schwarz got his first career hit with a double in the fifth inning, and second baseman Dalton Guthrie got his first hit in his fifth at-bat, a double that went to the left field wall. Seven different freshmen played in the game for Florida.

“Practice is just totally different,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s good for them to get in there.”

The series continues on Saturday at 4 p.m. Florida will throw sophomore right-hander Dane Dunning.

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