Kan Li / Scout

Missouri sweep for Gators and #20 Owls on deck

Tuesday night’s 6-0 shutout victory over Florida State prepped Florida for the opening of the Southeastern Conference campaign. The Gators jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st inning in the Friday night opener thanks to a two-run signal by Mike Rivera. However, Florida couldn’t run away with it, requiring extra innings to get the 4-3 win. They had to fight off the Tigers for the sweep on Sunday as well.    

“That tells a lot about the heart of Missouri’s club to come back on a Sunday,” Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “They’ve got a good club. I’m a big fan of McClain’s. He reminds me of Hudson Randall. He just kind of keeps them in every game. There’s not many guys in the country that have a heavy sinker like him. And they battled. They gave us different looks. Their lineup is dangerous and they can hit fastballs. They gave us everything that we could handle today.” 

The Gators also demonstrated a little pop from their bats. Pete Alonso continued his torrid streak with a two run bomb on Saturday to help Florida to a 6-2 win and a run-scoring double on Sunday. He belted a home run earlier in the week against FSU.

Alonso is currently hitting a team-high .400 with nine doubles and 28 RBI’s, also both team-high marks. He has only struck out six times in 75 at-bats.

Catcher Mike Rivera was injured in the Sunday win over Missouri, but O’Sullivan said the X-Rays were negative. We will know more about Rivera’s condition on Tuesday. He blistered the Missouri staff with a 5 for 9 (.566) offensive performance that included five RBI’s.

Rivera leads the Gators with five home runs and is second with RBI’s (24). He raised his average from .254 to .292 through the Missouri series. If he has to miss a few days expect sophomore J.J. Schwarz will handle catching duties with fellow freshman Mark Kolozsvary, who stepped in for Rivera immediately after the injury.

Kolozsvary has thrown out three baserunners who have tested him as the Gators #3 catcher. He only has 11 AB’s, but he has three hits, two of them home runs.     

Puk and relievers Sean Anderson and Dane Dunning were terrific. Puk went seven shutout innings and surrendered just three hits, while not issuing a walk. He struck out 11 Tigers on the day.

Anderson (3-0, 1.15) pitched in all three games (and the Florida State game on Tuesday) for the Gators. In his last four outings he has combined to pitch 4.1 shutout innings, allowing just two hits and no walks, while striking out eight. He picked up a win and a save too.

Dunning is really starting to gain confidence and become one of Florida’s leading pitchers. On the heels of his terrific start (and victory) over Florida State on Tuesday, Dunning enetered Sunday’s game in a jam and worked his way out of it. He worked 1.1 innings without allowing a hit or strike and fanned two as he set things up for Anderson.

“What Dane did today, boy that’s a huge weapon to have in your back pocket on a Saturday or Sunday,” O’Sullivan said of Dunning. “If you’ve got ot go to him with that type of arm, that’s pretty special. And we’ll just see what happens from week to week with Dane and what his role is.”

The Gators have a very difficult mid-week assignment as they host the Florida Atlantic Owls (15-3) on Tuesday night at 7pm. FAU swept through a tournament (4-0) in Starkville to start the season, which included 10-6 and 4-0 wins over host Mississippi State.

In the Owls three losses, one has been by a run (5-4) and two have been by two runs (13-11 & 8-6 ) demonstrating their competitiveness.  Junior left-hander Sean Labsan (2-0, 0.90) may get the start for the Owls. Right-hander Jackson Kowar (2-0, 3.38) or Dane Dunning (2-0, 3.32) should get the start for the Gators. Don’t be surprised if they both pitch for Florida.  

Florida will travel to Kentucky (14-5, 2-1) for a three-game series that begins on The Wildcats took two of three from Georgia (14-7, 1-2) in Athens last weekend.

 

Mark McLeod has covered Florida baseball (and football) since 1996. He is a member of the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. He is a co-host on “Sports Time!’ heard weekday afternoons from 4-6pm on Florida Sports Talk- FM 100.1, AM 900, & AM 1230 (Gainesville/Ocala). Listen online at FloridaSportsTalk.fm. Follow Mark on twitter @McLeodLive

Join Mark, Fightin’ Gators Managing Editor Bob Redman, ESPN’s Derek Tyson, and Zach Albolverdi of SEC Country at the 2nd Florida Football Recruiting Roundtable on April 15th at the Gainesville House of Beer. They will discuss the latest in recruiting & spring practice with videos and interviews. The show will run from 7-9pm. Free food will be provided, so get there early. 

 


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