When Dickey arrived at the ball park Sunday morning, Coach Pat McMahon wasn't even sure he would be playing the junior from Tallahassee. Saturday evening Dickey fouled a ball hard off his left instep. The sore foot made him questionable for Sunday's concluding game in the series but in pre-game warm-ups, Dickey showed that he was ready to play.
"He was kind of a questionable guy today whether he would play or not," said McMahon, who credited trainer John Barrett for his work to get Dickey ready to play. "We time our guys in pre-game workouts and Gavin may not know this but he was a late edition to the lineup because he ran so well and ran so hard in pre-game."
Dickey's first home run came in the second inning off Cincinnati lefty Don Osterbrock, a towering two-run drive down the left field line that barely stayed fair. His second two-run homer of the game in the fifth inning was a screaming line drive over the 365-foot marker in left center field.
Both of his home runs were off breaking balls. Last season Dickey struggled with breaking balls and the majority of his hits were on fast balls. The junior from Tallahassee, who has spent the last four football seasons as a backup quarterback for the Gators, credited the Florida coaching staff for giving him plenty of extra work to help him catch up with the other players on the team since he missed fall baseball because of his football obligations.
"It's a lot of hard work," said Dickey. "I'm working with the coaches every day to improve on something small and it's starting to pay off."
Dickey said the Cincinnati staff spent the entire weekend series feeding him one breaking ball after another, obviously because last year's scouting report read that as a weakness in his game.
"The whole series they were throwing me breaking balls and today I just got two that I could drive and I put good swings on it," he said.
Dickey also came up big in the field with an outstanding catch in center field where he got a tremendous jump on a hard hit ball and simply ran the ball down in the deepest part of the park.
This is Dickey's first spring when he's been baseball only and his ability to concentrate on the sport figures to pay tremendous dividends for the Gators this season. Because he didn't play summer baseball and couldn't participate in the fall, he knows he has a lot of work to do to get his game at the level he expects to play.
"When I'm completely comfortable, I don't know," he said. "I really don't have a timetable and I don't know when that day will be. I just try to work on something small and improve it every day. Rome wasn't built in one day and the coaches are patient with me. They realize that it takes awhile to get back into transition and they work with me every single day on defense, base running hitting … something new every day."
McMahon said Dickey's success on the field and at the plate is the result of plenty of extra hours after practice working with the coaches. The lack of at bats and fielding chances both in fall practice and last summer means Dickey is having to put in extra work to get his game into playing shape.
"I think that not having a fall, obviously he's playing catchup," said McMahon. "He's an outstanding football player so now he's concentrating on baseball season. He continues to work hard and catch up. I think that's a help to him and I think also he understands that this is what he wants to do. He's working extremely hard and then we'll make a decision at the end of the season about football again for him. I know he loves playing."
Dickey wasn't the only Gator to swing the bat well Sunday afternoon. Florida got three hits from shortstop Adam Davis who has gotten off to a .538 pace, and home runs from Brian Jeroloman and Greg Quatrino. Jeroloman hammered his second home run of the season in the third inning, a three-run shot over the left field wall. Quatrino, whose last at bat of the 2005 season resulted in a three-run homer in the Gainesville Regional final at McKethan Stadium, hit a three-run homer in the eighth on his first at bat of this season. Brian LeClerc, off to a .435 start this season, had a double and a triple to drive home three runs.
The Gators pounded out 14 hits but they showed great patience at the plate, too. Florida hitters coaxed 10 walks out of Cincinnati's pitchers and there were three hit batsmen. McMahon likes the patience he's seeing from the Florida hitters this early in the season.
"To our guys credit we had great, disciplined at bats," said McMahon. "It was a good start for our ball club."
Florida used two hits, five walks and a hit batter in the first to manufacture all the runs necessary Sunday. The Gators followed that up with a three-run second highlighted by Dickey's first home run and a three-run third thanks to Jeroloman's homer.
The Gators had a comfortable 12-0 lead before Cincinnati got on the scoreboard with a three-run fifth. The Gators answered in their half of the fifth with three runs, two on Dickey's second homer of the season.
Florida closed out its scoring with a five-run eighth, scoring two on a line drive single to left by Matt LaPorta and Quatrino's three run homer deep to left field.
Freshman J.K. LaCosta, in his first collegiate action, pitched three solid innings to start the game, earning his first win. He allowed only two hits and struck out two. Freshmen Jarrod Langlois and Chas Spottswood saw their first collegiate action as well as McMahon used seven pitchers, part of a script he had devised to get as many pitchers as possible some early innings before the Gators hit the Southeastern Conference schedule later in the spring. McMahon used veterans Steven Porter and Darren O'Day also in relief.
"We've got to answer so many of our pitching questions and Coach (Ross) Jones has worked our guys extremely hard but you have to step forward and be consistent," said McMahon. "You have to pitch well and defend well."
The Gators played their second straight error-less game. Florida made one error in the first inning of game one of the series with Cincinnati. The Gators have gone 26 error-free innings since then.