Gators claim series with 8-4 win over FGCU

The Florida Gators relied on their bats on Saturday as the defense got away from them in the early part of the match up with Florida Gulf Coast. A couple of freshmen accounted for six RBI in the game and the bullpen showed up aces to help Florida beat FGCU 8-4 in front of the 4,862 in McKethan Stadium.

Freshmen infielders Deacon Liput and Jonathan India drove in three runs apiece and junior Ryan Larson was 4-for-4 as No. 1 clinched the season-opening series. In addition to the offensive production from its 7-9 hitters, the Gator bullpen tossed five scoreless and hitless innings behind the trio of freshman RHP Brady Singer (1-0, 3.0 IP, 3 K), sophomore LHP Nick Horvath (1.0 IP, 1 K) and junior RHP Frank Rubio (1.0 IP, 2 K).

As a team the Gators also produced seven extra-base hits with five doubles and two triples. They also stole four bases, matching the best game they had a year ago.

Florida started the scoring first in the game in the second inning when the two freshmen batted in Mike Rivera and Ryan Larson. Liput sacrificed Mike Rivera home and Ryan Larson to third after a single from Rivera and double from Larson. India then hit an infield single for his first career hit as a Gator to score Larson.

After a scoreless third, the Eagles put four on the board in the fourth… all unearned. A throwing error by starting pitcher A.J. Puk resulted in a base runner and Eagles redshirt freshman Ryan Shinn then singled to put runners on the corners.

An error by India at 3rd allowed redshirt sophomore Greg Morey to score. Senior Nick Rivera tied the game at two with a base hit and then senior Colton Bottomley struck again with a double that pushed across the Eagles final two runs.

All of the Eagles runs came in that third inning and it was just a matter of time before Florida would counter.

Puk would leave the contest after the 4th inning after allowing four hits, four unearned runs, six strikeouts, and a walk. Puk looked good on the day with just a couple of pitches getting away from him.

"I felt pretty good out there for the first couple innings,” Puk said after the game. “The third inning was just kind of a bad inning. Overall though, we came out in the fourth, and it was alright."

India added his second RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly that scored Ryan Larson in the fourth inning.

Singer would enter in the pivotal part of the game at the start of the fifth inning. His debut at Florida, he struck out the first two batters he faced and retired the side when the last batter flied out.

“I felt good,” said Singer. “I pulled the slider a few times, but the fastball really felt good. I had to get the jitters out a bit, but all around it was a great team win. We fell behind a bit but we came back and fought through."

UF trailed entering the sixth inning before Liput (2-for-4) cranked a two-run triple to give the hosts a lead that it would not relinquish. The Gators had five players turn in multiple-hit outings as part of the squad’s 15-hit total without striking out, while their pitching staff did not permit any earned runs to the Eagles and tallied a dozen strikeouts.   

Over four innings, Puk yielded four hits and four unearned runs, with six strikeouts and a walk. Singer debuted in the fifth and retired the side in order after striking out the first two Eagles he faced. He would go on to pitch three scoreless innings, with two hit batsmen and three strikeouts. He definitely had some nice movement on the ball.

The Gators finally moved back ahead in the sixth inning when Liput smacked a two run triple that scored sophomore Jeremy Vasquez and Ryan Larson.  India then drove in Liput with a grounder to third and a fielder’s choice sacrifice.  

Vasquez and Larson struck again in the seventh inning when sophomore J.J. Schwarz led off the inning with a triple. Vasquez doubled to score Schwarz and Larson then connected on a two-out double to score Vasquez.  That would be the final scoring of the contest.

“Just one of those days I guess where you find the holes and get your hits but it felt good and I guess that is a career high so yay,” Larson said of his four hit outing.

Horvath, a transfer from Santa Fe College, made his Gator debut with a perfect eighth inning, striking out one. Rubio showing off a new side arm motion followed with a clean sheet in the ninth to secure the triumph.

While Puk pitched well the bullpen for Florida was almost spotless even though it was kind of a question mark coming into the season.

“The bullpen was outstanding,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We had (Brady) Singer come in and pitch three hitless innings, for (Nick) Horvath it was good to get him out there for the first time, and you got a new look at (Frank) Rubio dropping down. Our bullpen really was outstanding. I thought A.J’s (Puk) stuff was very good early on, it was just a pitch here and a pitch there, and a good learning experience."

The hitting was clutch.

"As far as offense, Ryan (Larson) obviously had a big day at the plate going 4-for-4 and scoring three runs. Deacon (Liput) had a big hit-and-run and had three RBI and Jonathan India had three RBI too. Jeremy (Vasquez) continues to swing a hot bat and got a couple of hits. The top of the order did a great job, where Dalton (Guthrie) and Buddy (Reed) had a couple of hits apiece."

 Outside of Larson it was the freshmen that kind of stole the show. Along with Singer’s pitching India and Liput both were great at the plate.

"Coming into a stage like this, it's just surreal,” Liput said after the game. “It's such a great feeling. It's a really humbling experience. When you first step on the field and you look around at the crowd, it's such an amazing feeling. You have a lot of nerves and a lot of anxiousness, but by now, I've really settled down. My teammates have helped me out a lot. They've answered a lot of my questions and they've been really comforting to me. Thankfully, I've been able to get used to this, not quite used to this, but I'm having a lot of fun. This is the best experience I've ever had in my life, so it's going really well."

“It was a good game all-around, my teammates helped me through the game to keep me relaxed, the older guys especially,” added India. “I just tried to do my job at the plate and I did well tonight.”

Game Three…

The Gators and Eagles will finish off the series tomorrow at 1 p.m. Gators’ sophomore right-hander Alex Faedo will face redshirt sophomore right-hander Mario Leon.  You can watch the game live on-line on SEC Network+.

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