Reed’s walk-off seals opener over Miami

Last weekend was a disaster at the plate for Buddy Reed.

His hitting improved during the offseason in a major way, but instead of showing it, he went 1-14 in the first series against Rhode Island. Five days can change a lot.

Reed had his second straight three-hit game, capping it with a walk-off single to beat Miami 4-3 on Friday night, Florida’s 18th win over Miami in the last 22 meetings. He finished last weekend with a .071 batting average but has already pushed it to .280. His hit scored Josh Tobias, who led off the inning by reaching on a wild pitch, but it was Reed’s soft line drive over the shortstop’s head that sealed the game.

“I was just looking to win the game,” Buddy Reed said, noting it’s the first walk-off hit of his life.” Sully told me, ‘Buddy, win the game for us.’ By the grace of God I did, and we got the victory.”

Coming into the game, it was billed as one of the top pitching matchups in the country with two All-Americans in Florida’s Logan Shore and Miami’s Andrew Suarez. That matchup lasted just nine pitches. Suarez was scratched just minutes before the national anthem, pushed Ryan Otero into the starting duties. Shore’s hip flexor tightened up on him, and the sophomore lasted just nine pitches before having to come out of the game.

After Shore tried some pitches to see if he could stay in the game, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan summoned left-hander Bobby Poyner to the mound. The only problem was Poyner needed to get his glove. He knew he was the first arm out of the bullpen, but he didn’t think it would come before the sixth inning at the earliest. Poyner sprinted from the dugout to the bullpen to grab his glove, then warmed up on the mound.

The senior took over a 3-1 count and threw a ball to the first hitter he faced, making it first and second for Miami with no outs. The Hurricanes’ powerful middle of the order loomed, but Poyner sat them down with a foul out by reigning ACC Freshman of the Year Zack Collins, a strikeout of Willie Abreu and a ground out by George Iskenderian.

“Bobby pitched great,” O’Sullivan said. “He threw the ball great. (The first inning) gave him some momentum when he put a zero on the board. It was a big lift for us. When you’ve got to take your starter out, the dugout’s kind of quiet. He did a great job in a tough situation. He was the story of the game.”

Poyner got into trouble in the sixth inning and was pulled after putting runners on second and third with one out. Mike Vinson entered, and his first pitch was a passed ball that tied the game. An RBI single for David Thompson followed to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead. New Florida pitcher Kirby Snead’s first pitch went to the backstop for a wild pitch, giving Miami a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning.

The Gators have blown out opponents in the first four games, and this gave O’Sullivan a chance to see how his team would respond.

Florida started the sixth with a single by Reed and a walk to Richie Martin, and both advanced on a double steal with the heart of the order at the plate. However, Harrison Bader and J.J. Schwarz struck out on back-to-back at-bats, and A.J. Puk was intentionally walked to load the bases for freshman catcher Mike Rivera.

O’Sullivan has raved about Rivera having the clutch gene, and he showed it on Friday with a two-out, two-run single to tie the game in the sixth inning.

“I told you, he’s one of those young players that might go 1-4 but that one hit is one when you need it,” O’Sullivan said. “He stuck his nose in there.”

The Florida defense, which has made just four errors this season, was perfect on Friday. The big play came in the eight inning. After Collins singled, Willie Abreu lined one into the right-center gap. Reed, Florida’s center fielder, sprinted to the ball and was able to cut it off before it got to the wall. He hit shortstop Richie Martin in short center field, and the junior threw a perfect strike home to nail Collins at the plate. Florida right-hander Taylor Lewis got a fly out in the next at-bat to keep Abreu at third and end the inning.

“With most center fielders, the ball gets to the wall,” O’Sullivan said. “He cuts it off, throws a strike to Richie and then Richie throws a strike to the plate. Huge play to cut down a run.”

The Gators go for the series win on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Florida will send sophomore left-hander A.J. Puk (1-0, 1.93) to the mound.

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