In game one, starter AJ Puk (2-2, 3.07) received a no-decision in no small part to the effort of Bulldog counterpart Robert Tyler. The two stars were on form and most teams will muster little at the plate in the wake of dominance of that magnitude. The offense did Puk no favors, however, swinging and missing in attempts that did not appear to contain belief. Friday night, the Gators were intent on a different plot to the sequel and jumped all over UGA starter Connor Jones (6.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 8 K, 3 BB). Center fielder Buddy Reed (1-4, R, RBI, K) got things going in the opening inning with an RBI single that scored a second run via error. Third baseman Jonathan India’s (1-4, 2 RBI, K) single scored two more in the next at-bat, giving the Gators a three run lead. Reed would go onto produce the single most exciting moment of the night when he successfully stole home on a suicide squeeze, which extended the lead to four runs entering the second. Florida Head Coach Kevin O’Sullivan thought that the quick start was a welcome sight from the dugout.
“We had really good swings, and we were ready to hit. I think the timing was right when Buddy Reed stole home. It got the dugout excited; it got the fans excited. It’s probably what the doctor ordered, to be honest with you. We needed to come out and control the game. We did that offensively.”
That would be more than enough for Shore (CG, 2 H, 6 K, BB), who faced the minimum twenty-seven batters on the evening. After being punished in the opening frame, Jones (L 5-3, 4.95) settled into the game and largely held the home team at bay. The Gators were able to add a fifth run an inning later in unconventional fashion, scoring on a botched throw to first after an India strikeout. The Gators would complete the score line in the sixth with a Dalton Guthrie (0-3, R, RBI) sacrifice fly. The Florida offense gave Shore the support he needed early enough for him to get into a groove and what a groove it was.
The right-hander was clinical throughout the evening, using groundball after groundball to lull the Bulldogs into nine very fast innings. With the combination of commanding control, exceptional pitch selection, and elite defense, the performance was Maddux-worthy. Shore’s 101 pitch count was a mere two short of the Hall of Famer’s stated goal of a complete game with under a century of pitches. Shore had to settle for breaking another school record, this time for most consecutive decisions won with thirteen. The record stood for over thirty years, but Shore was quick to put the game into perspective.
"Honestly, I didn't even know about the record until last week. For me, it's just about going out there every weekend and trying to give us the best chance to win. I just so happened to swing together a pretty good run there after a tough loss last night.”
Shore understood the significance of facing the minimum batters, and was vocal about the performance’s meaning.
“I didn't even know that until Alex Faedo told me after the game when we were shaking hands. But, that's something I've never done and obviously that makes it a little more special to me. I couldn't do it without the guys behind me and there were four or five unbelievable plays tonight that saved me for facing the minimum and getting me through the ninth there. We put up six runs and that obviously makes it a lot easier. It was awesome."
The game was delayed 93 minutes because of rain, a fact that only adds another degree of brilliance on a night that is among the junior’s best. O’Sullivan believes it was as good as gets, because his pitcher is as good as it gets.
“That’s about as good as (Logan Shore) has pitched his whole career here. He faced the minimum; that’s really hard to do. We played good defense behind him and turned a couple of double plays.”
If sophomore Alex Faedo (7-1, 3.67) can produce something on par with what we have seen in the first two games, the Gators will have every opportunity to win the series Saturday (2pm ESPN2) in the finale.