Shore leads Florida over Maine

The Gators have become accustomed to dominant outings by Logan Shore to start a weekend, and Friday was no different.

The sophomore right-hander dominated Maine (4-10) with eight shutout innings to help No. 2 Florida (12-2) to a 5-0 win. Shore allowed five hits and no walks while striking out five hitters. He threw 67 of his 95 pitches for strikes, and only one of the five singles Shore allowed was hit hard.

“His fastball command was really good, threw some quality changeups, but I think his breaking ball is much improved,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “He was very efficient, got a lot of early contact and set the tone for the weekend. He felt good.”

When Shore made his second start of the year against Miami, he left after just nine pitches with a hip injury. He was able to return last week against Stony Brook, but the sophomore was on a pitch count of 75. Against Maine, O’Sullivan was able to stretch him out to 95 pitches, preparing him for going deep into games next week when the Southeastern Conference schedule begins by hosting Tennessee.

Shore’s hip was aggravated during the cold weather from two weeks ago, but even with temperatures in the mid 40s on Friday, the hip felt fine and hasn’t bothered him since leaving the start against Miami.

“I felt really good, especially to go to eight and get my pitch count up a little bit and stretch it out to 95,” Logan Shore said. “Extending it out, it’s definitely a confidence booster for me. I felt really good.”

Right-hander Eric Hanhold, who suffered a hip injury during opening weekend, made his season debut to pitch the ninth inning on Friday. He was 93-94 mph on the radar gun and allowed just one hit before ending the game.

The Gators took advantage of Maine mistakes in their four-run second inning.

The Black Bears made back-to-back errors with one out to start the inning for Florida, and Dalton Guthrie singled to load the bases. Buddy Reed’s infield single put Florida on the board and Harrison Bader drove in another run with a single to left field.

Richie Martin followed with what looked like a routine double play ball off the bat, but Maine shortstop Shane Bussey made an error and everyone was safe, including the third run of the inning. A long sacrifice fly by designated hitter J.J. Schwarz brought home the fourth and final run of the inning.

“I would hope we would be better offensively tomorrow,” O’Sullivan said. “I’m not quite sure we had the same focus that we did on Wednesday night (in a 10-2 win over UCF). We swung the bats really good on Wednesday night.”

First baseman Christian Hicks hit his first career home run in the sixth inning, lining it into the right-center field bullpen. It was the freshman’s third RBI in the last two games, and he has played solid defense at first base despite never playing the position before he got to Florida.

“I knew I hit it pretty good, but I just kept running because I thought it was going to hit the top of the wall,” Hicks said with a grin. “It was pretty exciting.”

The Gators will try to clinch the series on Saturday at 4 p.m. by sending left-hander A.J. Puk to the mound.

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