Head Coach Kevin O'Sullivan trotted out freshman Jackson Kowar (1-0) for his first collegiate start and the 6'5 righty did not disappoint. In five innings of work, Kowar struck out eight Knights, allowed three hits, and gave up no runs on route to his first victory as a Gator.
After 66 pitches, Kowar's night was over and fellow freshman Brady Singer came on in relief. The flame-throwing righty was dynamic in his two innings of work as he struck out three and allowed just one hit.
In the eighth inning, Sully sent Singer to the showers early and brought in Shaun Anderson to finish out the game. Anderson had struggled in the ninth inning of Sunday's game vs Miami, so tonight presented a big bounce back opportunity for the junior.
Needless to say, Anderson was dynamite tonight. He allowed just one hit and struck out two as he recorded the final six outs of the game and secured Florida's ninth win of the season.
Offensively, the Gator lineup cooled down upon returning to Gainesville. Florida only mustered three hits, but still somehow produced four runs. On a night of lackluster offense, it was to the Gators' advantage that two of their hits were home runs and that UCF made three fielding errors.
The first Gator home run was a leadoff bomb from Dalton Guthrie to put the Gators up 1-0. After Guthrie's homer, UCF starter Trent Thompson held the Gators in check until a cataclysmic fourth inning. Buddy Reed started off the inning with a groundout to first base for what looked like a routine out.
However, UCF first baseman Austin Griffin opted to flip the ball to Thompson instead of just tag the bag when he was a mere step away. The result was chaos. The ball went off of Thompson's glove and Buddy ended up on second base with what would be ruled a base hit and then an error.
Reed would reach third base on the next pitch via balk and then Peter Alonso drove him in to push the lead to 2-0. Alonso's RBI came on a groundout that should have been an out, but UCF shortstop Brennan Bozeman misfielded it and the ball scooted into the outfield.
With Alonso on first base and one out after a Jeremy Vasquez strikeout, the struggling Mike Rivera strode to the plate. Slowly breaking out of his slump with a base hit yesterday, Rivera took a huge leap forward tonight as he crushed a first pitch slider over the left-centerfield fence for his second home run of the year. It would push the Gator lead to 4-0 and the #1 team in the country did not look back after that.
Florida's pitching carried the team to victory today as the staff struck out 13 Knights tonight. Even on a night where the offense was off its game, the Gators still found a way to win in a pretty convincing fashion.
A bad fourth inning is what dashed what overall had been a valiant effort from UCF in their attempts to split the home-and-home series. It's tough to come into Gainesville and win. It's even tougher when you can't score a run.
Here are some other tidbits of mine from this game before I preview the weekend series vs Dartmouth:
- Deacon Liput's hitting streak of eight games is over after an 0-2 performance tonight. Peter Alonso's hitting streak of seven games is also over after an 0-4 slate tonight.
- Dalton Guthrie extend his hitting streak to eight games with his leadoff blast.
- Buddy Reed drew his second catcher's interference of the year when he swung at a pitchout that caught too much of the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning.
- Upon being inserted into the game in the top of the seventh, left fielder Ryan Larson made a spectacular diving play for the second out of the inning.
- The Gator pitching staff did not walk a single UCF batter.
- Kowar's eight strikeouts are a career-high.
- Eric Hepple, who I played against in high school, came on in relief in the seventh inning and was untouchable. He struck out the side in the seventh and retired all five Gator hitters that he faced in his 1.2 innings of work.
- UCF out-hit Florida 5-3, but it just did not translate on the scoreboard.
- This is Florida's second shutout within a week, with the first coming against Miami on February 26th (5-0 Gators).
With another in-state series in the book, #1 Florida (9-1) will now turn its attention to a home weekend series against the Dartmouth Big Green (0-3). The projected starters for this weekend are Logan Shore on Friday, A.J. Puk on Saturday, and Alex Faedo on Sunday. I am pretty confident this will hold up and be the Gator rotation for the weekend. Game 1 is Friday, March 4th. It is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and can be heard on ESPN Gainesville.
As for UCF (6-4), they will try to end what is now a four-game losing streak as they hit the road to face the Rice Owls (4-5) in a three-game series. Game 1 in Houston is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com