The Gators (11-2) didn’t waste any time erasing doubt about the game. Florida scored at least one run in each of the first four innings, jumping out to a 7-1 lead at the end of the fourth inning and cruising to a 10-2 win over the Knights (11-2).
“That was the message to our players this afternoon,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “Good teams answer. I thought they played great and played inspired.”
Florida scored three of its runs on wild pitches, including both in the first inning. Buddy Reed and Harrison Bader both reached base with one out, and both scored on wild pitches from starting pitcher Eric Hepple that ended up at the backstop.
Josh Tobias scored on a ground out in the second inning after reaching on a one-out triple. Harrison Bader kept the scoring coming with a line drive home run in the third inning.
The knockout blow came in the fourth inning. UCF scored one run to cut the UF lead to 4-1, but the Knights stranded the bases loaded. Florida responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single from Christian Hicks, an RBI fielder’s choice by Buddy Reed and Dalton Guthrie scored on a wild pitch.
“We talked about it last night how we struggled a little bit, but every day is a new day and we came out here with a new frame of mind, swinging the bats well and capitalizing on moments when you have them,” said Florida third baseman Josh Tobias, who recorded his 10th his in his last 15 at bats with a single in the fourth inning. “It’s always great to get an early lead, especially after you lose a game yesterday. It gave us momentum throughout the game because we scored almost every inning and it just kept us running.”
Florida starting pitcher Brett Morales was perfect the first time through the order, but he was pulled after allowing the home run and the two hits and two lineouts that followed. Florida left-hander Kirby Snead loaded the bases when he walked James Vasquez, but he got a fly out from Kyle Marsh to end the threat.
“That has been our Achilles’ heel,” O’Sullivan said about his bullpen pitchers struggling when they enter the game. “We talked about that today, too. Our guys come out of the pen, they have to (throw) strike one. We’ve been falling behind out of the pen, then the damage is done and they come back out the next inning and they’re fine.
“They’ve got to come out of the pen ready to go and get strike one. There’s not a lot of room for error. We have to concentrate more and trust our stuff.”
The Gators return to action on Friday at 7 p.m. when they start a three-game series with Maine.