Kan Li / Scout

Logan Shore Has Career Night In SEC Opener, Gators win 4-3

The #1 ranked Florida Gators (19-1, 1-0) opened SEC play in a contest that would end in extra innings Friday night, defeating the Missouri Tigers 4-3 in a closely contested pitching duel. All-American Logan Shore (5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 10 K, 1 BB) led the way with a career-high 10 strikeouts.

The Gators wasted little time getting on top of the Tigers, scoring three runs in the opening inning and was highlighted by a Mike Rivera (2-4, 2 RBI) two-run single. Florida would then rely heavily on Shore, who was in the zone after allowing the first two runners to reach base. The Tigers (14-7) would pull a run closer in both the fourth and sixth, with the pitching staff limiting what could have been much more damage in both innings. Left-handers Kirby Snead (1.1 IP, 2 H, 2 K, 2 BB) and Jordan Singer (2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 K) came on in relief of Shore and once against put in strong performances for what has been up this point a dominating bullpen. Florida pitchers recorded eighteen strikeouts in their highest combined output of the year as many free t-shirts were distributed on the evening to the home fans.

Freshman Deacon Liput continued a scalding-hot start to his Florida career, going 2-4 with an RBI single in the first. The offense was plagued for most of the night with isolated hits and could not get much going, going eight innings in between runs. This was the case for much of the non-conference schedule and following its theme, it was balanced by a sterling performance from the top pitching staff in the country that deserved much praise on the evening.

“I thought Logan (Shore)'s stuff was as good as it's been,” stated Florida Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “He was really good. Kirby (Snead) came in and got some big outs, and Brady Singer made some big, big pitches. Obviously, Shaun (Anderson) came in there at the end and kept it right there. All in all, it was a really good baseball game.”

The Tigers tied the game in the ninth 3-3 on a shocking error form Ryan Larson in left. This occurred only before one of numerous horrendous calls were levied against the Gators by home plate umpire Nelson Graham that would have ended the game. Graham produced call after call that sent the Gators faithful into protests.  Singer pitched his way out of further trouble, but the Gators were unable to end the game in regulation. Junior Shaun Anderson (3-0, IP) struck out the side in the top of the tenth to give the bats the momentum that they desperately needed. Senior starting pitcher Reggie McClain (who came into the game with a stat line more impressive than Shore’s) was sensational, holding the Gators to single digit hits and visibly frustrating several batters. McClain’s superb effort was dashed by Brian Sharp (2-1), who walked three batters to start the bottom of tenth before giving up the game-winning single to Pete Alonso (1-5, RBI, K).

O’Sullivan spoke highly of the Tigers, who gave his Gators all they could handle.

“You've got to compliment Missouri for hanging in there. We put up three runs in the first, and it could've been easy for them to lose focus, but they were really good. Missouri's dugout was into the game all nine innings.”

There were not many low scoring games in the prelude to conference play and for good reason. The Gators were largely playing teams that were outclassed on talent and Florida cruised. This was not the case tonight, as Missouri threatened to provide the Gators with only their second loss of the young season. McClain (9 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 8 K, 0 BB) provided an effort that would win most games against most teams. As it is, Florida is not most teams and Logan Shore is not just another starting pitcher. A top performance was needed by Shore, who has been the Friday night starter since his freshman year, to beat the Missouri starter tonight. Shore delivered yet again and O’Sullivan gave a very positive analysis of the record-breaking night.

"I thought his breaking ball was as good as it's been. His fastball had some giddy-up to it. It had good sink, and he was locating it. I think they (Missouri) hit two balls in the outfield tonight. We did a nice job on the mound."

The Florida offense did just enough to get the win and move onto the next game. How many times will that be typed during this campaign? As the old adage goes, champions always find a way to win. It has yet to be seen whether these Gators will be champions, but what has been seen is that they have everything it takes to earn the distinction. 

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