The No. 5 Florida Gators are 4-0 on the season, their best start since 2011 when Kevin O’Sullivan and his ball club made it to the College World Series. An opening series sweep of Rhode Island and a midweek win over USF set the Gators up for their first true test of the season as they are set to host instate rival No.8 Miami (4-1).
“I love playing Miami, especially after last year, they beat us two out of three,” Friday night starter Logan Shore said. “We’ve always had a pretty good history with them. It will be a good matchup this weekend. I’m looking forward to it.”
Shore is coming off of a fantastic start against Rhode Island, is 1-0 on the season with a 0.00 ERA. Growing up in Minnesota, he wasn’t privy to the Florida-Miami rivalry growing up but he got a taste of it when he pitched out of the bullpen down in Coral Gables last season. Shore will be facing a strong Miami offense that is hitting .341 as a team.
“They’ve got a lot of pop in their lineup and a lot of lefties, it will be a difficult lineup to face but I think if I execute and do what I know how to do I think we should be all right,” said Shore.
Going up against Shore on Friday is Miami left-hander Andy Suarez. Suarez threw five innings against Rutgers, gave up two runs, struck out three and walked two in his only outing this season. The pitching matchup promises to be the highlight of the season, early on at least.
Trying to derail Suarez’s efforts will be the Gator bats that have been swinging hot this spring. Florida is hitting .340 as a team; they’re slugging .583 and have hit seven home runs in just four games. Junior left fielder Harrison Bader has led that charge, hitting .600 with 14 RBI and three long balls.
“I do have a routine though, every hitter has his own routine,” Bader said. “I try to stick to it the best that I can. The thing is that you kind of have a lot of ups and downs and you try to stay as consistent as possible. I’m just trying to ride the wave as long as I can.”
Florida hopes their cleanup hitter will ride that wave throughout the weekend and lead them to a series win over Miami. The Gators, despite losing two-of-three to the Canes a year ago, have won 17 of the last 21 meeting between the two schools and are looking to continue that type of dominance this weekend.
- Florida’s offense has come out firing through four games, as the squad has hit .340 (49-for-144) and outscored Rhode Island and USF by a combined score of 50-8.
- Florida has pounded out 19 extra-base hits, with 10 doubles, seven homers and two triples, to go along with a .583 slugging percentage.
- Led by junior Harrison Bader’s three dingers, UF has seven homers already. It didn’t reach seven round-trippers last season until the 26th game on March 29 against LSU.
- Florida’s pitching staff has given up eight runs (five earned) in 36 innings for a 1.25 ERA, with 37 strikeouts and six walks.
- UF has used 15 different pitchers and its quartet of sophomore starters, RHP Logan Shore, RHP Dane Dunning, LHP A.J. Puk and RHP Brett Morales, is a combined 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA and registered 20 strikeouts in 20 innings.
- The Gators have plated 50 runs in four games. They did not reach this plateau offensively until the 12th game last season on March 2.
- The total of 37 runs last weekend was the highest for UF to begin a year since 2006 (40 runs), when it swept Cincinnati (10-0, 10-4, 20-4).
- Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan claimed his 200th win at McKethan Stadium last Saturday and is now 201-63 (.761) on his own turf.
- UF started three freshmen in its season opener: Dalton Guthrie (2B), Mike Rivera (C) and JJ Schwarz (DH). Five rookies started the finale last Sunday: Logan Browning (RF), Guthrie, Christian Hicks (1B), Rivera and Schwarz.
- Bader (.600, 14 RBI) has multiple hits and multiple RBI in all four games this season and is slugging 1.400.
- Guthrie has batted .438 (7-for-16) out of the leadoff spot, highlighted by a 4-for-5 outing on Sunday in which he scored three runs and had two doubles.
- Florida is 9-for-10 on the basepaths, with thefts from seven different players. Rivera has thrown out three of the four runners who have tried to steal on him and he is 2-for-2 on his own.
- Morales retired all 18 USF hitters he faced on Wednesday night and registered a career-high seven strikeouts on 70 pitches.
- Schwarz (.333) belted his second career homer and had five RBI in the Gators’ last outing and four of his five hits have gone for extra bases.
- Sophomore Buddy Reed went 3-for-6 with a pair of runs and two RBI against the Bulls.
- The Gators have totaled 50 runs, 49 hits and 44 RBI in 2015.