"It feels good to swing like that again," said Dickey after his first three-hit performance of the season helped the Florida Gators take a 10-0 win over Michigan State. The Gators (15-4) got a sweep of the Big Ten's Spartans with a weekend of timely hitting, patience at the plate, solid pitching and excellent defense.
In three games, the Gators outscored Michigan State, picked fourth in the Big Ten in the preseason coaches poll, 40-3, got at least five innings from each starting pitcher in the three-game series, and played superb defense, committing only one error.
Dickey's first home run of the season was part of a five-run third when the Gators put the game away. Jared Kubin drove home the first run of the inning with a single to left that plated Matt LaPorta. A sacrifice fly by Brian Jeroloman increased the lead to 3-0 and then Daniel Brooks hammered a long two-run homer to deep center field. Dickey followed with his homer to left, the second time this series and second time this season that the Gators have gone back-to-back.
"It was a fast ball that he left up and got in a bit," said Dickey, who started in center field for the injured Jeff Corsaletti and raised his batting average to .426. "I'm starting to see the ball a lot better now and I'm starting to get the timing down. When you don't get the swings in during fall ball, it takes awhile to get it going. I'm just now starting to feel comfortable swinging the bat."
In a fifth inning that produced Justin Tordi's first homer of the season, a drive over the left field wall, Dickey doubled when he took an outside fast ball to the right field with Brooks on first. Dickey was well on his way to a standup triple but third base coach Tim Parenton decided to put the brakes on Brooks at third, leaving Dickey stranded between bases. Dickey forced a rundown between second and third but when Brooks bolted for home he was nailed at the plate.
"That was another good swing," said Dickey. "I just went with the pitch the other way and I hit the ball well."
Dickey's third hit of the day was a rip up the middle. He was erased at second as part of a double play, but that inning concluded well for the Gators, too, because Adam Davis got a bunt single followed by back to back doubles by LaPorta and Brian Leclerc.
"My confidence is really high now," said Dickey. "I'm ready to contribute to the team any time the coaches need me."
Corsaletti tweaked a hamstring in Saturday's game with the Spartans. He could have played Sunday, but Coach Pat McMahon rested him and let Dickey get the start for the second straight day. McMahon has been playing around with the lineup a little bit, so it is possible that Stephen Barton could move permanently to third base, opening up Dickey to start in left field.
Stephen Locke earned his second win of the week with a solid six shutout innings. He gave up six hits, pitching his way out of jams in the first, second and fifth innings.
In the first he had a runner on third with one out but got a strikeout and a weak infield pop to end the inning. In the third he gave up a two out double but got the third out on a grounder to second, and in the fifth he gave up consecutive two out singles. A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third, but he got out of the inning with a strikeout.
"Once I get past the first and second innings, I'm usually okay," said Locke, a freshman who raised his record to 3-0 while dropping his earned run average to 1.31. "I was like that in high school, too. I tend to overthrow in the first couple of innings."
McMahon used three pitchers one inning each to finish out the afternoon. Bryan Augenstein, Michael Branham and Darren O'Day faced the minimum nine hitters and allowed only one baserunner to close out the Spartans.
Florida raised its team batting average to .305 and lowered its team ERA to 3.02 over the weekend. The Gators will face Army Wednesday night.