#1 Gators blank #11 FSU

It's no wonder McKethan Stadium was rockin' Tuesday with its 5th largest attendance in stadium history; 5,917. First pitch was thrown at 79 degrees with a nice breeze as the big Sunshine State rivalry got underway in Gainesville.

Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan said, “I thought the crowd was outstanding. There was just under six thousand people. The crowd was in it from start to finish. A ton of people stayed right until the end. It was fun, it was a very good night.”

Right hander Dane Dunning had never pitched against FSU before, but as a Junior he knows the heat of the rivalry. Before Florida’s starter left the mound to a standing ovation, Dunning went 5.2 innings, registered 5 strikeouts, 1 walk and didn't give up a run. His record improved to 2-0.

"I've always wanted to pitch against FSU since freshman year, actually. It's a dream come true. Absolutely loved it," says Dunning.

Dunning started the game off hot, with a 2-2 looking strikeout. After hitting a batter on an inside fastball and giving up a single, Dunning got out of the inning with a strikeout to strand two runners.

The night looked promising for FSU starting pitcher Tyler Holton, whose change up was spot on all night. To lead off the gator half of the first, shortstop Dalton Guthrie struck out on the change, followed by junior center-fielder Buddy Reed. But Florida quickly changed the pace of Holton when JJ Schwarz took a first pitch for a single into left field. Holton walked back-to-back batters after the single from Schwarz; one of them being to freshman Deacon Liput. That extended Liput's streak of reaching base in every game this season (19). The inning ultimately ended when Mike Rivera hit a short fly out to first base.

O’Sullivan says, “even though we didn’t score in the first inning, he got the first two guys quickly and it looked like he was going to have a ten to twelve pitch inning. Next thing you know, we pushed his pitch count up towards 22-25 pitches. So even though we didn’t score we had some quality at bats.”

Seminole first baseman Dylan Busby started off the second inning with a double off Dunning. However, Busby was later tagged out in a 5-4-6 pickle between 2nd and 3rd base. The other two outs came from a looking strikeout and a fly out to left fielder Nelson Maldonado, who made a great catch.

It seemed as if Maldonado was settled into the game by the bottom of the second inning. With one out, the freshman capitalized on a pitch from Holton and sent it over the left field bleachers. “It’s definitely uplifting,” says Maldonado, “It creates confidence in the dugout and I’m sure it gave Dane more confidence going on the mound and having a one run lead.”

I think it’s safe to say Maldonado has overcome a slow start to his first collegiate season. “I’ve definitely picked up the pace now. I feel comfortable at the plate now and I feel confident when I’m up there. Today I saw a pitch up and I hit it,” said Maldonado.

Desperate to get points on the board, FSU started the third inning off swinging. Taylor Walls and John Sansone hit back to back singles off Dunning, but the Gators defense had his back. Another impressive catch by Maldonado in left field, followed by a 6-3 double play, would keep the Seminoles scoreless.

The bats stayed alive for Florida in the third inning. Schwarz leads off with a single and Peter Alonso hits a two-run homer to clear the left field bleachers for the second one of the night. The inning would end with two runs, two hits and one left on base. That makes Alonso’s fourth homer of the season.

India started off the fourth inning. Coming off a strikeout, India wasn’t fooled again by Holton; he sent the lefty to the bench after hitting a double into the left-field corner. Taking over for Holton (3.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R) was freshman Chase Haney. Guthrie put down a nice sacrifice bunt to move India around to third. A fielder’s choice by Buddy Reed erased India at the plate, however, Reed stole around to third base on an error by the catchers throw down to second. Schwarz steps to the plate and hits his third single of the night to send Reed home and bring Florida to a 4-0 advantage.

FSU went with its second pitching change in the fifth inning, handing the ball to Matthew Kinney. The inning wasn’t a pretty one for Kinney, who hadn’t given up a run yet this year. After one out: Mike Rivera singles, Jeremy Vasquez gets hit by a pitch and Maldonado walks. In another pitching change, the Seminoles go to Jim Voyles (who also hadn’t given up a run yet this year).  Voyles cashes in two of Kinneys runs with a single from India.

Here’s where it got weird…

With the bases loaded, Dalton Guthrie strikes out swinging but the catcher misses the ball. In this case, the umpire assumes the play at home is a forced out, but we all know it’s not. Jeremy Vasquez sprints home and scores but is called out on a “forced out.” After meetings with the coaches and other umpires, the teams eventually get back on the field and realize the run by Vasquez does count. Reed would ground out to end the inning.

Dunning:

Dane Dunning just surpasses 75 pitches to begin the 6th inning and gives up a single to Sansone and another single to Cal Raleigh. The Florida defense pumps out its third double play of the night to help out Dunning. After walking the next batter, Dunning would call it a night (5.2 IP, 7 H, 1 BB, 5 K).

“Defense was phenomenal. They were making plays for me left and right and defense has always been good throughout the years and I’m just hoping they can keep it going,” said Dunning.

Florida brings in freshman Jackson Kowar from the pen for his fifth appearance. The tall right hander ended the inning with a strikeout to Busby.

Funny Part of The Night:

Kowar retires three straight batters in the 7th inning with a strikeout, fly out and a looking strikeout. He comes back in for the 8th inning and has two Seminoles ground out. Sully takes a trip to the mound and reaches his hand out for the ball. Instead of handing the ball, Kowar accidentally lends him a hand shake.

Sully laughs, “that was a rookie mistake. He tried to shake my hand. I think it’s happened to me one other time since I’ve been here. The guys are giving him a hard time. It was just one of those things, I was kind of shocked. But I shook his hand too so I guess I made a mistake too.”

The Result:

The Gators went on to shutout Florida State 6-0 and improve their record to 18-1. Florida’s last shutout of the Seminoles was back in 1994.

O’Sullivan says, “I don’t know if we look at it as a shutout, we just want to kind of win regardless of the score. Those things are nice but I think the thing I’m most pleased with right now is I think we’re swinging the bat better.”

The Gators will look to those bats as they open up SEC play this weekend, welcoming Missouri to McKethan Stadium for a weekend series.


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