Gators crush Florida State

On a sloppy night for the Florida pitching staff, the offense was there to pick the Gators up throughout the night.

Florida (19-3) scored at least one run in six of eight trips to the plate, pounding out 16 hits and taking advantage of five Florida State errors, running away with a 14-8 win in front of 5,827 in attendance, the fifth largest crowd in McKethan Stadium history. It was the most runs the Gators have scored against the Seminoles since 2007.

Florida has now won five straight and eight of their last 10 meetings with Florida State (17-5). Under eighth-year head coach Kevin O’Sullivan, the Gators are 7-1 against the Seminoles at home.

“It was a frustrating game, I’m sure, to watch from a fan’s perspective,” O’Sullivan said. “Every time each team scored, the other team went back and gave it back up. They’re not all going to be 2-1 ball games. This is just one of those nights.

“Any time you’ve got a chance to beat Florida State, whether it’s a 1-0 game or 14-8, you’ve got to feel good about it.”

The Florida pitching staff struggled through the night, working deep counts, walking hitters and giving up hard-hit balls. The Gators allowed nine hits and six walks, causing O’Sullivan to burn through seven pitchers. Five of the pitchers walked at least one hitter. The teams combined to use 13 pitchers in the three-hour, 55-minute game.

For Florida, it was about throwing strikes. The pitchers worked deep counts and threw just 57.8 percent of their pitches for strikes. Aaron Rhodes came in and allowed just one run in 2.2 innings. O’Sullivan credited him for helping the Gators settle in and take control of the game, but it wasn’t always pretty on the mound.

“We were sloppy on the mound,” O’Sullivan said. “It was not one of our best efforts. I’ll kick myself tonight. I’ll be thinking about this game for a while because we’ve got to find the right roles for our pitchers. We’ve got to do a better job pitching ahead in counts. It’s a little surprising, to be honest with you, as poorly as we pitched tonight. It’s my responsibility to sift through this and figure out who can do what. We’ll work through it. We’ve got plenty of talent.”

The Florida offense, however, needed a game just like this. After scoring 17 runs in the final two games against Tennessee, they kept the momentum going. The Seminoles struck for two runs in the first inning, but the Gators answered with five runs, keyed by an RBI triple by Harrison Bader, RBI singles for Josh Tobias and Mike Rivera and a two-run double by Jeremy Vasquez.

That turned momentum back to the Florida dugout, but it only lasted one inning. The Seminoles came back for three runs in the third inning, cutting the lead to 6-5 after three innings. The game was tied at seven in the fifth inning after FSU scored on a passed ball and then third baseman Dylan Busby, who had three errors on the night, stole home.

The Florida offense responded with three runs in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Ryan Larson, one of the run-scoring errors by Busby and a sacrifice fly by Tobias. When the Seminoles were able to get momentum, the Gators were quick to strike back and take it back.

“Long game, a lot of positives,” Bader said. “Our offense was really good. Our defense was really good. Our pitching sucked a little bit tonight. Those guys are working hard, and I know it’s just an off night for a couple guys. At the end of the day, our offense picked them up tonight. That’s the most important part.”

Freshman designated hitter J.J. Schwarz hit his fifth home run of the season in the seventh inning, erasing any doubt of the outcome. Bader also chipped in by going 1-3 with three RBI.

“Every time something big happens offensively, it always seems like Bader’s right there in the middle of it,” O’Sullivan said.

Florida started four freshmen -- Dalton Guthrie, Rivera, Schwarz and Jeremy Vasquez. They combined to go 9-20 with one home run, four doubles, six runs scored and six RBI.

“To play in this game for the first time, that’s really, really good,” O’Sullivan said.

The Gators return to action on Friday at Ole Miss starting at 7:30 p.m. It’s their first road series of the year.

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