Shaun Anderson closes out ‘Noles, Tigers to earn closer designation

Florida head baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan said that the tide is turning for pitcher Shaun Anderson. What the junior is delivering is anything but a beach vacation for opposing batters who hear their names called by the stadium announcer and step into the box. This week Anderson resembled a choppy, swirling rip-tide where lifeguards are ordering swimmers out of the water and law enforcement follows up in 4x4 vehicles, waiting with handcuffs.

Anderson was spectacular.   

His line for the week was precisely what Florida needed from a bullpen that has plenty of talent, but needed a demonstration against the visitors from the “Show Me State”.

He pitched 4.1 shutout innings, allowing two hits, while striking out eight. He required just 51 pitches to pick up a win and a save.  

Anderson has moved into the preferred closer’s role for the moment.

The 6’5, 230-pound right-hander’s week began with a bang. On Tuesday night, he came on at McKethan Stadium against arch-rival Florida State and put the finishing touches on the Gators 6-0 shutout of the 11th ranked Seminoles. Anderson surrendered a leadoff single to Dylan Busby, but shook it off to strike out pinch-hitter Steven Wells on a 3-2 pitch. Two batters later, the Coral Springs native fanned Hank Truluck on just three pitches. The game ended when he retired Taylor Walls, who was down 0-2 in the count, on a ground ball to third base. 

Anderson was even stronger in the series sweep over Missouri. He needed just 12 pitches to secure his third win of the season, as he closed out the Tigers in the top of the 10th inning with three strikeouts to give Florida a 4-3 win to open conference play.

One night later, Anderson required just 15 pitches to go 1.1 innings, while picking up his 3rd save of the season in the Gators 6-2 series-clinching win. He struck out two Missouri batters, including catcher Brett Bond to end the game.

The junior made his final appearance of the week in the Sunday finale after designated hitter J.J. Schwarz drove-in third baseman Jonathan India with a double in the bottom of the 8th extending Florida’s lead to 7-5 over Missouri. Missouri third baseman Shane Benes led off top of the 9th inning with a single off Anderson, who battled back to strikeout Bond. He then got second baseman Ian Nelson to hit into a 4-6-3 double play, putting an exclamation point on the game and the series sweep.

“Unbelievable weekend,” O’Sullivan said of Anderson. “Shaun (Anderson) was really, really special this weekend. I’m happy for him. He’s worked hard for get to where he’s at. He’s a team leader. He pulls for other guys. He’s an older guy that has kind of waited his turn. So, it’s kind of cool.”

Anderson (3-0, 1.15) has come a long way since he first appeared on the mound for the Orange & Blue. As a freshman, he was 0-2 with a 5.60 ERA in 17.2 innings and last season Anderson finished with a 0-0, 4.09 ERA in 22 innings.

He has gone from a pitcher who ate up innings while gaining valuable experience to a pitcher that O’Sullivan can hand the ball to in clutch moments.

Anderson has a team-high 11 appearances this season all from the bullpen. He has pitched 15.2 innings, surrendering just two earned runs with, and this is key- no walks. He has fanned 21 batters and opponents are hitting just .200 on the season against him. His WHIP is just 0.7894.

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 Follow Mark on twitter @McLeodLive.

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