Notes: Gators conserve Shore for Monday

Florida might not need Logan Shore to finish off the Gainesville Regional, but if that opportunity arises on Monday, Kevin O’Sullivan wanted to be sure his ace would be able to go.

The Gators were feeling confident during their three-run fifth inning. While they pushed the lead to 9-0 during another long bottom half of an inning, O’Sullivan sent pitcher Frank Rubio to the bullpen to get warmed up. He went through his warm ups quickly to get ready and was inserted for the top of the sixth inning.

Starting Logan Shore on Friday was a controversial decision, one that O’Sullivan spent a long time thinking about this week. But with the game in hand and the sophomore at only 58 pitches, the Florida coach wanted to take Shore out of the game and save him if the team needs him to pitch some in a potential decisive game on Monday.

Best case scenario for Florida is that game never comes and the Gators win Saturday and Sunday nights to advance to the Super Regionals. O’Sullivan wanted to prepare for the worst just to be safe.

“Logan pitched really well and kept his pitch count down for the opportunity if we need to use him later in the tournament,” O’Sullivan said.

What a Shore appearance would look like on Monday is more complicated. He wouldn’t be on full rest and likely couldn’t go deep into a ball game. It’s not out of the question to think he could give Florida a few innings if needed, and that’s what O’Sullivan wanted.

“That’s up to him,” O’Sullivan said about how long Shore could go on Monday. “It’s how his arm feels. If we got into a Monday situation, it’s all hands on deck at that point.”

INJURY UPDATE: Florida catcher Mike Rivera was hit on the knee by a fastball while batting in the fifth inning. The freshman fell to the ground and was in a lot of pain before being helped to his feet. Rivera walked to first base with O’Sullivan and athletic trainer Jon Michelini. When they reached the base, they decided to remove him from the game and let freshman Mark Kolozsvary catch.

J.J. Schwarz has been behind the plate in recent starts for A.J. Puk, who will start on Saturday, but O’Sullivan didn’t sound concerned about Rivera’s status.

“I think he’s OK, I didn’t get a chance to see him or get an update,” O’Sullivan said. “I think he’s OK though.”

Second baseman Dalton Guthrie was a question mark coming into Friday after he sat out Sunday’s SEC Tournament championship with a wrist injury. The freshman hurt the wrist on an awkward swing against LSU during the SEC Tournament semifinal.

Guthrie took batting practice on Thursday and looked good, and the same thing happened before Friday’s game. The freshman rejoined the lineup on Friday in the ninth spot in the order. Christian Hicks pinch hit for him in the sixth inning, allowing the staff to get Guthrie out of the game and potentially feel better for tomorrow’s game.

“I think he’s fine, but I’ll check with him before we go home,” O’Sullivan said.

WINNER’S BRACKET MATCHUP: Florida will face South Florida on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the winner’s bracket game. The team that wins on Saturday night will have two chances to win just one game to advance to the Super Regionals.

The matchup with the Bulls is a familiar one for both teams. They played two midweek games, as Florida won the first won 13-3 in Tampa on February 18 and the Gators won the second one in Gainesville 5-1 on May 5. The teams know each other’s lineups well and there won’t be any surprises on Saturday.

“Any time you’re familiar with your opponent, it kind of takes the edge off it a bit,” O’Sullivan said. “We know how talented they are. To get to this point of postseason, you’ve got to be doing some things right. They’ve been doing a lot of things right.”

The Bulls haven’t seen A.J. Puk, Florida’s 6-7 left-hander who starts on Saturday night. Puk has dominated in three of his last four outings, striking out 10+ batters in those three.

O’Sullivan called the second game in a regional the most pivotal because of the winner needing to be beaten twice not to advance. Having Puk on the mound with a hot Florida offense is a recipe for success.

“As long as we can stay out of our way and play like we’ve been playing, we’re going to be tough to beat,” O’Sullivan said. “I think this team’s got a chance to make a deep run.”

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