Good Start for Gator Baseball

The Florida Gators certainly weren't dominant in their first three games of the season, but sweeping Siena is certainly the right way to get the season underway. Florida outscored the boys from New York by the score of 27-13, and while winning by 4-5 runs a game sounds good there were plenty of issues that came up during the first weekend of the season.

Florida fell behind 5-zip Friday night before rallying for a 10-7 win. The Gators' planned No. 1 starter, Kyle Mullaney lasted just three innings, allowing nine hits and six earned runs. Florida won thanks to a tremendous performance out of the bullpen by Billy Bullock who pitched six innings and allowed just one run.

Saturday the Gators got strong pitching from top to bottom in a 4-0 win, but that didn't make it a "big" win. The Gators managed just five hits in the contest, but it's hard to complain about a shutout win.

Then on Sunday, the Gators shot out to an 8-2 advantage before suffering through one of the worst innings I have ever seen in terms of self-inflicted wounds. Siena scored four runs in the frame on the strengths of one hit. That's right, ONE HIT. The inning included the Gators' first error of the season, three walks, one hit batter and four wild pitches. Still, the Gators bounced back and went on for a 13-6 win to make it three wins on the opening weekend of the season.

The most positive thing from the weekend is that the Gators appear committed to being a much more aggressive team in 2008. After stealing just 39 bases in 59 games last year the Gators swiped a dozen in the three game series. The second thing that stands out is the Florida bullpen which allowed just one earned run in 13 2/3 innings. Part of that is deceptive since the disastrous sixth inning Sunday was on reliever Cody Barnes, but due to an error all four runs with unearned. Still it has to be comforting to Gator baseball fans that Coach Kevin O'Sullivan might actually have a fireman or two down in the pen instead of arsonists.

Offensively the Gators didn't swing the bats great, hitting just .295 in the series. Brandon McArthur led the way with a .455 average and six runs batted in while freshman Josh Adams took advantage of some early playing time with two homers on Sunday and seven RBI for the series. Shortstop Cole Figueroa didn't get many chances to swing the bat, walking six times but he still was able to go 3-for-7, scored five times and managed a .692 on base percentage.

A truer test awaits the Gators this weekend. After two mid-week games against Eastern Michigan the Gators will hit the road for a series at Miami. If Florida is still unbeaten a week from today, then they just may be on to something.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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