It was another frustrating evening on the diamond for the No. 23 ranked Florida baseball team (5-5) in front of 3,097 fans as it falls back to .500 on this young season after being shutout 6-0 by Illinois (4-4). The visiting Illini jumped on the Gators in the third inning with two runs then added four more in the sixth.
For UF, the story was frames that begun optimistically but led to nothing more than zeroes on the scoreboard.
Each of Florida’s three hits led off innings –the fourth, seventh and eighth respectively.
In the fourth, after shortstop Richie Martin singled, second baseman Casey Turgeon walked for the second time in the game then designated hitter Peter Alonso reached base on an error by Illinois left fielder Ryan Nagle. With the bases loaded, first baseman Braden Mattson struck out and right fielder Justin Shafer popped out to center field and the threat was over.
In the seventh inning after an Alonso single the next three Gators in the order met their demise and in the eight was no different. After a Ryan Larson single center fielder Buddy Reed grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, and Martin struck out. Alonso expressed frustration with the untimely hitting.
“I really wanna get on the guys because I mean a few of the guys just took really, really bad swings, and it’s just frustrating to watch,” he said. “So I mean it’s not like trying to get down on them but just trying to give them a pat on the hiney, just to get them going. Take some swings with conviction and have confidence.”
Illini pitcher Kevin Duchene was effective all night pitching a complete game on 100 pitches only walking two and striking out six. His counterparts in orange and blue were far less effective. The Gators used five pitchers. Poyner started, going 4.2 innings then three pitchers (Brett Morales, Danny Young and Tyler Deel) acted as a bridge of ineptitude combining to throw 1.1 innings between Poyner and the reliever who finished the game Frank Rubio. Morales recorded one out and was responsible for giving up four runs and three hits. Deel didn’t even record an out, throwing six straight balls before head coach Kevin O’Sullivan had seen enough and pulled him for Rubio.
After Sunday’s offensive explosion of six runs and 11 hits against Miami, the Gators have not been able to convert hits into runs. In Thursday’s game against Florida Gulf Coast the Gators had nine hits but only plated one runner. Friday night, neither hits nor runs were being produced by UF, something that made O’Sullivan almost forget about the productive outing his team had five days prior.
“I’m just trying to get through tomorrow,” O’Sullivan said. “Sunday seems like a long time ago. I mean we’re just trying to play a good game tomorrow and see what happens. There’s things we gotta learn –we gotta get better, simple as that. I’m not telling you guys anything you don’t know, we just gotta get better it’s just as simple as that.”
How exactly to get better is what can be lost on a team so young once a losing mentality sets in. Alonso says he and Turgeon are leaders in the clubhouse trying to battle complacency within the team. Terms like grind, and conviction are being echoed and the season is barely 1/6 of the way over. It’s easy to be frustrated as a fan, especially with a No. 1 recruiting class that doesn’t produce immediately.
Alonso and his teammates however, understand that this is just part of the game.
“It’s the game of baseball I mean it’s gonna happen,” he said. “There’s highs and lows at each points of the season. Thankfully it’s the beginning of the season we got a lot of season left. We haven’t started SEC play yet so we’ve got a lot of time to get things rolling so I think we’ll be alright.”