The passing of the torch, Gators Kibler to Shore

If junior Logan Shore was graded on style points for his Friday night performance, he’d have aced the test. The Coon Rapids, Minnesota native triumphantly etched his name in the Gators record books establishing a new school-record with his 13th consecutive victory as Florida cruised to a 4-0 win. The previous record was secured 32 years ago by Russ Kibler, a hard-throwing right-hander, who earned All-SEC honors in 1984 while pitching the Gators to a league title with a 12-1 record.

Shore accomplished the feat despite unconventional circumstances that included a 1 hour 33 minute rain delay and a rare second day start with Florida down 0-1 in a series. The occasion was further magnified by the fact the Gators were hosting their bitter Eastern Division arch-rival Georgia Bulldogs. 

He masterfully pitched a complete game shutout that saw him face the minimum (27 batters) with some help from an outstanding Florida defense that included a pair of double plays and sliding catches by outfielders Ryan Larson and Nelson Maldonado that prevented base hits.

“Logan (Shore) and I talked about that after the game,” Russ Kibler said of the Gators solid defensive effort. “As a pitcher it just gives you so much more confidence and you don’t have to throw the perfect pitch. Just let them hit it. When I was in AAA that was the thing. They said, these guys are going to hit the ball. They’re just about in the big leagues. Just don‘t give them such a good thing to hit and let your athletes play. The defensive just played fantastic.”

Shore (8-0, 2.14) surrendered just two hits and one walk, while striking out six Georgia batters. Florida (36-6, 13-5) should reclaim the #1 national ranking in the various polls.

“If there’s a person to pass the torch with that game and that performance, well, he just pitched a gem,” Kibler said of Shore’s outing. “It’s not like he won 8-7 and gave up a couple of bombs and the offense had to pull it through. He just pitched unbelievably. What a gem. What a great kid. Humble. He was just a joy to be around during that short period of time. We just introduced ourselves and we talked a lot about this game.”

“He wasn’t aware of the record until last week,” Kibler added. “He said that you did it in one season (1984), just a good humble answer. I said yeah, but that doesn’t matter.”

Kibler, who enjoyed Friday night’s game with his family in box seats behind the Florida dugout is correct. 

 Shore’s quest for the consecutive wins record unknowingly began with an 11-2 win over Auburn in the 2015 Southeastern Conference Tournament. He then went to lead the Gators to a 19-0 whipping of Florida A&M in the NCAA Regionals before shutting down the Florida State Seminoles over 5.2 innings in the NCAA Super Regionals. The Gators jumped out to a 13-0 lead before Florida State scored five runs off the Florida bullpen in the final two innings.

Florida advanced to the College World Series where Shore upped his overall record to 10-6 when the Gators beat Miami 15-3. Six days later, he led Florida past Virginia 10-5 to advance to the national championship game.

Logan Shore’s monster post-season coupled with his outstanding 2014 freshman campaign earned him a spot on the USA Collegiate Baseball National Team.

Those five wins added to his eight in 2016 gave him the magic number- 13.

The rain delay didn’t seem to bother Shore or the Gators. It wasn’t raining and there were no lightning strikes at the time the game was scheduled to start. Officials actually delayed the start time based on what they saw on radar coming into Gainesville within a half-hour or so of that first pitch. In fact, the Florida softball team was playing Mississippi State on the other side of campus.

Think about what might have been had officials began the game on schedule and Shore would have been forced to sit? There’s no way after having gone through the process of warming up and pitching one or two innings that he could have come back out there after a 1 ½ hour delay.

Kibler now ranks second in UF history with 12 consecutive wins. Kibler said that if Florida returns to Omaha in the College World Series, he and a friend are seriously considering flying out. A national championship in the year the record was finally broken would be extra-special for Kibler and he desperately wants to witness it in person. 

The Jacksonville native still commands the Florida single-season best winning percentage (.923) by a pitcher, which also occurred during that fabulous ’84 season. Kibler’s record is based on a minimum of 10 decisions.

This won’t be popular with anybody who is superstitious, but I’m in the media and it’s our job to point out that there are two Florida pitchers who might have an opportunity to equal or surpass that record.

While we’re a long, long way from it becoming part of the discussion- Shore and sophomore Alex Faedo (8-1, 3.32) both figure to have at least four starts remaining in the regular season. If they go on to win those games, the discussion will begin.

“I sure didn’t mention anything about the single season winning percentage with Logan,” Kibler said laughing. “I didn’t go there and I didn’t want to go there. I just told him to keep this season going. He’s just pitching really well. His command is fantastic. He mixes it up and I use this reference with no pun intended because of who we were playing last night, but he’s got that Bulldog. When he’s on the mound, he’s got that eye to him, that demeanor when he needs it. He just turns it on. He’s really dealing and that makes it exciting to me. I told him that I had it 32 years, but just think about how long he will have it.”

Shore told Kibler that it’s team first and all individual records are secondary. Anybody who has covered Shore can attest to his character with that statement. I think Faedo would feel the same way. Like Shore, he just wants to dominate every time out. Leave the records to the media hacks and interested fans.

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