#1 Gators pitching leads to season opening 4-2 victory

The No. 1 ranked Florida Gators baseball team started their run to Omaha with a comfortable 4-2 victory over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Friday night. Relying on a trio of arms and good defense, Florida worked itself to a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning in front of 5,778 fans and never looked back. It was the largest Opening Night crowd ever at McKethan Stadium.

Starting pitcher and preseason All-American Logan Shore led the way in 5 strong (if not unspectacular) innings, giving up 3 hits, one earned run, and 6 strikeouts. He was relieved by left-hander Kirby Snead, who was impressive en route to 4 strikeouts in 3 innings pitched.

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan liked the way Shore battled through some tough moments.

“With the left-hand hitters, he was pushing the ball a little bit and not getting on top of the ball,” O’Sullivan said. “This is what No. 1 guys do. They find a way to win even though they may not be as crisp as they usually are.”

Shore did about what he expected for an opening day.

“I think overall it was pretty good,” Shore said. “There are a few things I need to work on going into next weekend. Overall, it was a good team win. I wanted to get to five (innings), that was my goal for the day.”

Kan Li / Scout
 The Gators took the lead in the second through a Mike Rivera sacrifice fly and again in the 4th with a solo blast to the left field stands. The sophomore only had three homers his entire freshman year, but continues to show the clutch hitting he is known for and his unselfish nature making sure to credit others.  

“I’m just out here trying to win a game and taking it inning-by-inning. I want to give credit to the pitchers, they did incredible. We still have a long way to go, but they were looking good. Give credit to the freshmen (Jonathan India and Deacon Liput) too. They played well and looked relaxed.”

“I don’t go to the plate trying to hit a home run. I go up to square balls up and wherever they go they go. I kind of thought about last year a little bit. A 3-2 count, and I tried to be relaxed and get my timing on the ball.”

An eventful 5th saw several Jonathan India advance to 2nd after one of many wild pitches from FGCU starter Brady Anderson. Dalton Guthrie legged out a single to advance India to third. The bases were loaded when CF Buddy Reed was struck in the back by Anderson, who struggled with control for most of the night. Two sacrifice flies from DH JJ Schwarz and 1B Pete Alonso pushed the lead to 4-1.

The rest of the evening saw the Gators struggle offensively, managing only 6 hits all night. Fortunately, the top pitching staff in the country put in a commanding performance, the perfect remedy for early season hitting woes.

O’Sullivan implied that they had the brakes on a little bit offensively, but was impressed with the performance of the pitching staff, including junior lefty Kirby Snead who set a career high with four strikeouts and threw three scoreless innings.

“We weren’t as aggressive offensively as we may be or will be down the road. These guys have been waiting a long time to get back on the field together. I am pleased with how we played. I thought Kirby (Snead) did a good job; Dane (Dunning) came in and did a very nice job. It was good to get his 2016 going. (Jeremy) Vasquez had a good night. All in all, it was a good game, so we will look to improve moving forward.”

The Gators had two true freshmen start from their heralded number one recruiting class. Second baseman Deacon Liput tallied the first hit of his Gator career in his first at-bat in the second inning. He was also part of a couple of double plays on the night. Third baseman Jonathan India drew a couple of walks including one in the fifth that led to him scoring on JJ Schwarz’s sacrifice fly.

The Gators take on FGCU Saturday in game two of the series at 4pm. Preseason All-American A.J. Puk will get the start for the Gators.

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