Then it all fell apart in a hurry.
Puk sat down the first five hitters he faced on Saturday, and seven of the next nine Miami hitters reached before Puk was pulled from the game. With two outs and nobody on in the second inning, his control deserted him, walking back-to-back hitters before hitting the next to load the bases.
Miami nine-hole hitter Brandon Lopez lined a single into right field to score one run, and Puk got a strikeout to avoid any further damage. But it was already too late, and Florida went on to lose 7-2 in front of a crowd of 6,081, the second biggest in school history.
“He’s cruising along and looks great, then with two outs and nobody on, I don’t know what happened,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He lost his release point. He slowed his arm down on a couple changeups, but I don’t really have an answer for what happened.”
The next inning provided even more issues. Back-to-back singles by Ricky Eusebio and Zack Collins put runners on the corners to start the inning and David Thompson scored one of them on a double. After a Willie Abreu RBI ground out made it 3-0, O’Sullivan lifted Puk in favor of right-hander Aaron Rhodes. Puk ended his outing by throwing 36 of his 61 pitches for strikes.
Rhodes’ outing was similar to Puk’s.
After striking out the first four hitters he faced, Rhodes gave up a triple to Carl Chester and a walk to Eusebio before the All-American Collins put a three-run homer into the right-center bullpen to make it 6-0. The deficit was too much for Florida to dig out of.
“Any time you fall behind by that many runs, it’s going to be a tall task to get back in it,” O’Sullivan said. “I thought offensively we swung the bats good. I know it doesn’t show up in the hit column. We hit some balls hard, hit balls with back spin and had a really good approach.”
The Florida pitchers walked seven hitters on Saturday, the same number they walked in the first five games of the year.
The Florida offense struggled against Miami’s soft-tossing lefty Thomas Woodrey.
The Gators loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning but only scored one on a sacrifice fly by Josh Tobias. Freshman catcher J.J. Schwarz added a solo home run in the sixth inning. Woodrey allowed five hits, two walks and one earned run in 6.2 innings of work.
Derik Beauprez threw a scoreless 2.1 innings to finish the game.
The rubber match takes place on Sunday at 1 p.m. Florida will send sophomore right-hander Dane Dunning to the mound, facing Miami junior right-hander Enrique Sosa.