Gators cruise past Maine

Florida’s offense and pitching have led the team at different times this year, but it wasn’t just one of them on Saturday.

The Gators played errorless ball, pitched well and manufactured six runs to clinch the series with Maine after a 6-1 win.

Starting pitcher A.J. Puk had his best outing of the spring, going 5.2 innings and allowing two hits, one run, two walks and striking out six. Puk threw 53 of his 88 pitches for strikes and didn’t allow a hit in the first four innings. Third baseman Luke Morrill led off the fifth with a solo home run, and Puk loaded the bases in the sixth inning before he was pulled.

After slow starts in recent outings, Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan was pleased with what he saw from his sophomore.

“That’s the best A.J. has looked,” O’Sullivan said. “He threw the ball really good. He didn’t misfire until that last inning, and I think he just ran out of gas there. We tried to get him through the sixth inning, but up until that point, he threw the ball really good.”

The solo home run snapped a streak of 10.1 scoreless innings for Puk, dating back to his start against Stony Brook last Saturday. His added confidence has been a big part of it.

“Every outing, I’m just trying to build on my previous one,” Puk said. “I feel confident out there and comfortable. All of my pitches have been going well. I’m going to keep that up and continue it right on.”

Florida left-hander Danny Young allowed just one hit over the final 3.1 innings to pick up the save.

Just like Friday, one big inning did most of the damage for the Gators.

Florida got its first run when Maine messed up a sacrifice bunt attempt by Florida designated hitter Mike Rivera, throwing the ball away and allowing catcher J.J. Schwarz to score. Florida loaded the bases with one out for Dalton Guthrie, but he struck out and didn’t bring a run home.

Center fielder Buddy Reed picked up the team with a three-run double to put Florida up 4-0 after two innings.

The Gators added a run on a two-out RBI single from Rivera in the fourth inning. The freshman would end the day 4-4 at the plate.

“It felt good after struggling the day before,” Rivera said after going 0-3 on Friday. “It finally came around. I’ve been working in the cages and doing what the coaches say, and it paid off.”

Florida left fielder Harrison Bader injured his ankle returning to first base on a fly ball and had to come out of the game. O'Sullivan said he thought it was a sprain, but he didn't know for sure after the game.

Florida and Maine will close the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Gators will send sophomore right-hander Dane Dunning (3-0, 1.12 ERA) to the mound.

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