Terrific pitching leads Gators to 4-0 win over UCF

A freshman starter, a freshman middle reliever, and a junior closer had what it took to throw 13 strikeouts, no walks, and scatter five hits in a 4-0 shutout for Florida (9-1) over  Central Florida (6-4)Wednesday night in Gainesville.

Freshman right hander Jackson Kowar got his first start of his career and after allowing two two-out singles in the first inning, he struck out the final batter of the stanza and notched six more for eight total strike outs in his five full innings.

“It’s nice to get the first start,” Kowar said after the game. “I’m glad my first appearance (against FGCU) wasn’t my first start; I had a couple of outings under my belt. Once I was able to get into a flow, I felt good. It’s nice to get a win.”

Kowar would allow three hits total in the five and fellow freshman Brady Singer would come on for two innings throwing three more strike outs and allowing just one hit.

Finally, junior Shaun Anderson would come on for the last two innings and throw one hit, two strike out, no run ball to finish the contest.

Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan was excited to see his young guys pitch well, maybe especially Kowar pitching in his first start as a collegian.

“We were really excited to get Jackson out there for his first start,” O’Sullivan said. “You guys saw what we’ve been seeing the whole time. He was really impressive. He has a good arm. He has a swing and miss change up, his breaking ball has gotten better. After the first inning he settled in.

“He pitched to both sides of the plate, the ball jumps out of his hand. I thought his composure was outstanding. I thought he handled himself like a champ. It’s a learning experience and every time these young guys go to the mound it’s new and I thought he really handled it well.”

Singer also drew praise from O’Sullivan who was happy to see his star freshman bounce back from a 3.1 inning, two earned run, outing in Miami over the weekend.

“Brady came in behind (Kowar) and was incredibly crisp,” the Florida skipper said. “He had a fastball on both sides and a really good slider. He worked on some things this past week. He was flying open a little bit after the Miami game on Saturday. I think the experience down there pitching at Miami is going to help him down the road. He was really good.”

Like Singer, Anderson struggled against Miami Saturday in the only loss on the gators schedule so far this season. Wednesday night was a good experience for Anderson who watched as the first batter he faced got on base on a pitch he couldn’t have thrown better.  

“I thought it was really good for (Shaun) to get him back out there,” O’Sullivan said. “He made a really good pitch to Mika to start the 8th and had a single to left that could have been real easy for Shaun to get frustrated and say ‘here we go again’. But, he buckled down and made some really quality pitches.”

“That was as good a performance as we’ve had,” O’Sullivan said in regard to the pitching from all three. “Two freshmen and Shaun coming off a tough outing… 13 strike outs and no walks, we didn’t make any errors, it was a really clean game.”

Offensively it was a bit of a different story. The Gators got a run on the first batter when sophomore Dalton Guthrie launched a 1-1 pitch over the left field fence giving the Gators a 1-0 lead.

It would be the fourth inning before Florida would round the bases again. Compliments of a couple of errors and a balk, the Gators would score three runs in the fourth. Junior Buddy Reed led off the inning beating a throw to first for a single. A wild pitch and ball moved Reed to third and Peter Alonso would reach first on an error scoring Reed. DH Mike Rivera would then launch the Gators’ second home run of the day over the left centerfield wall.  Alonso’s RBI marked his 12th of the seaso, now tied with freshman Deacon Liput for the team lead.

The UCF pitching was on point for most of the night. Multiple pitchers kept the ball low and left the Gator bats struggling and with only three hits on the night.

“Offensively we have some things to work on,” O’Sullivan said. “We had three hits and one was the leadoff homer by Dalton and the homer by Mikey. They had the error at first base.” 

“UCF’s pitchers kept us off balanced. They threw 2-0 change ups to start innings and made quality pitches. I think we were ready to play. I give credit to Central Florida’s pitchers, they did a nice job.”

The Florida lead man believes they can draw something from the way things went.

“These are the things that are encouraging… that you win the game but still have teaching points. We don’t need to let our guard down. We need to continue to work and keep the ball out of the air. We have to get some offensive counts to start innings… we didn’t do a whole lot. We need to make when we get into those counts we have to have some hard contact.

“We aren’t a finished product and we have the next two weeks to shore some things up and solidify this lineup, figure out our bullpen a little bit more, and figure out who (will) be our go-to guys before we start conference

“Tonight it was a really impressive outing by those guys on the mound. I am impressed with how they competed.”

The Gators are now 5-0 at McKethan Stadium this season and have won 12-0 at home dating back to last year.

UP NEXT

The Gators open a three-game series with Dartmouth (0-3) on Friday at 7 p.m. The entire series can be heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Jeff Cardozo and Steve Russell.


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