Florida Clinches Series

Austin Maddox posted a 0.67 ERA last season but claims he's better this year. The right-hander looked like it on Saturday. He changed the grip on the slider to help with location, giving him three pitches he throws for strikes. Maddox threw four shutout innings of relief, allowing one hit, to pick up the save and earn the Gators a series win after a 5-2 victory over No. 16 Cal State Fullerton.

With the Florida offense not hitting the ball well besides of the fourth inning, Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan wanted his best guy on the mound. He gave the ball to his closer to start the sixth inning, and the game wasn't ever in doubt.

"We felt like we weren't seeing the ball great and it was probably going to be a low scoring game," O'Sullivan said about Austin Maddox. "Like I've said from the beginning, (Maddox) isn't just a one-inning pitcher. We wanted to go with our best guy at that point.

"He's a starting guy with a closing mentality. It's kind of a calming effect. You know what you're going to get. He's aggressive, but you know what you're going to get every time out."

Maddox came in relief of Karsten Whitson (1-0), who sat down the final four hitters he faced. Maddox didn't allow a hit for the first 3.1 innings on the mound, a streak that totaled 14 straight Titans that didn't reach base. Anthony Hutting drove a one-out double to right-center field to snap the streak in the ninth inning.

The Titans hit just three balls out of the infield against Maddox in his four innings of work. He allowed just the one base runner and recorded three strikeouts.

"My off-speed was working good and the ball was coming off my hand good," Maddox said. "I just felt good all around."

It's a big change for the Florida bullpen. Last year, O'Sullivan rolled out seven pitchers he was comfortable with. Because of that, he would play matchups to always have his team in the best position.

This year, three of those guys return. Greg Larson and Steven Rodriguez, who picked up the win in 2.1 innings pitched on Friday, combine with Maddox to give the Gators three pitchers that they trust in the late innings.

O'Sullivan said Maddox and Rodriguez, who threw 40 pitches on Friday, will both be available for Sunday's series finale but that "some other guys need to pitch."

"It really doesn't matter how many you've got," O'Sullivan said of his bullpen. "You've just got to have a few good ones. They've done exactly what I thought they would do."

The Florida offense got it going in the fourth inning as they got a second look at the Titans' redshirt freshman starter Grahamm Weist. After Daniel Pigott singled to right, Preston Tucker added an infield single. Mike Zunino got the Gators on the board with a single to center field.

That's when freshman Taylor Gushue made his impact felt for the second straight game. The designated hitter drove a hanging 0-2 breaking ball down the right field line, scoring two runners and sending Gushue to third base. Freshman Justin Shafer chipped in with a sacrifice fly to follow, and the Gators had a 4-2 lead.

The swing that drew the most headlines, for the second day in a row, came from the freshman. Gushue admitted that it has been "a little bit" surreal.

"At first, it wasn't as real as you think it is," Gushue said. "Now I'm starting to get more concrete. I'm getting more comfortable as time goes. I'm just going to keep getting more comfortable. Confidence will come with that."

Tucker added an RBI single in the eighth inning to give Florida a cushion.

Florida won the series on Saturday and will go for the sweep on Sunday. The Gators will send junior left-hander Brian Johnson to the mound against Titans freshman left-hander Kenny Mathews. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.


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