What we learned: Maine series

The Gators swept the series with Maine and completed a 4-1 week, but there’s still a lot of room for this team to improve.

THE GOOD

Starting pitching: The Florida starters combined to throw 18.2 innings this weekend, allowing 11 hits, three walks and two runs while striking out 14 hitters. For the year, the numbers are even more impressive. Logan Shore, A.J. Puk and Dane Dunning are a combined 10-1 with a 1.66 ERA on the year. This was their best weekend of the season though, a perfect springboard in conference play that opens next weekend when the Gators host Tennessee.

Puk looks to have fixed his control issues, and Dunning seems poised for a breakout season. The issue for both will be throwing consistent strikes, but that hasn’t been a problem in the last two weeks. Florida knows what it will get from Logan Shore, who has yet to allow a run in 19.1 innings this year, on Friday nights.

Defense: The Gators are currently riding a streak with one error in their last 75 innings. The one came when Puk, playing first base on Tuesday at UCF, didn’t catch a routine pickoff throw. Florida has committed just nine errors in 16 games this year.

It starts up the middle, where shortstop Richie Martin and second baseman Dalton Guthrie have been fun to watch this year. Martin seems to have fixed the error issues that plagued him last year. Buddy Reed covers a lot of ground in cente field, and freshmen Mike Rivera and J.J. Schwarz look more than comfortable behind the plate. Add in Josh Tobias’ flair for the dramatic play, and the Gators have what looks to be a solid defensive core.

Dalton Guthrie: Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan took a risk by throwing a freshman into the leadoff role to start the year, but the gamble has paid off in a major way. Guthrie went 5-14 this weekend and continues to be a spark at the top of the Florida lineup. He’s hitting .333 on the season with a team-high seven doubles.

THE BAD

Situational hitting: The Gators scored 16 runs in three games against a Maine pitching staff that should’ve been hit much harder. Base runners weren’t an issue, but Florida left way too many runners on base and struggled with runners on third and less than two outs. The Gators hit .309 on the weekend but didn’t do enough with runners on base.

Base running: Whether it was runners being picked off or making mistakes after balls were put in play, the Gators just have to be better in this area. For as happy as O’Sullivan was to get an insurance run on an eighth inning, two-out double by Mike Rivera, there was still frustration about what could have been since Josh Tobias was thrown out at third on the play before it while trying to advance on a ground ball to shortstop.

Injury luck: Not much Florida can do about this one, but they’ve been hit by a lot of injuries this year. The Gators didn’t have Harrison Bader on Sunday after an ankle sprain, and Pete Alonso has been out all year after breaking his foot. Add freshman Jeremy Vasquez (broken finger) to the mix, and some of the best bats on the team are nowhere to be found.

The good news for the Gators is that players will start returning as early as this week. Vasquez is out of his cast and could start either Tuesday or Wednesday against Fairfield. Bader is expected to return by Friday at the latest. The expectation is two more weeks or so for Pete Alonso to return. The pieces are coming, and the Gators need all of them to add some punch back to the lineup.


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