Bullpen woes cost Gators vs. FAU

When young pitchers struggle, it’s usually the older ones who dig them out of holes. Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium, it was Florida’s older pitchers coming out of the bullpen that let the wheels come off in a six-run sixth inning that plunged the Gators to a 7-6 loss to Florida Atlantic at McKethan Stadium.

It was in the sixth inning that the Owls staged their big rally, turning a 4-0 deficit into a 6-4 lead.  Freshman starter Anthony DeSclafani ran into trouble when he hit a batter, walked another and then gave up a swinging bunt to Anthony Mesa that loaded up the bases.

That was it for DeSclafani, who was relieved by Tony Davis. Davis got a strikeout but a walk, passed ball and a wild pitch plated two runs.

Davis was relieved by Billy Bullock, who promptly walked the bases loaded. Nick DelGuidice followed up with a single to center field that drove in two runs and tied the score at 4-4. Another FAU single and a Bullock balk sent the final two runs of the inning home.

It was a frustrating for Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan, who saw his bullpen give up runs in an uncharacteristic manner. It’s not like the FAU hitters shelled Davis and Bullock.

“We’re one strike away from getting out of the inning, and then there’s a passed ball, wild pitch and a balk,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s things you don’t normally see from older pitchers. It’s frustrating.”

The Gators didn’t execute with the bat all last weekend against Miami. Wednesday, it was the pitchers that couldn’t come through.

“We’ve got to execute,” O’Sullivan said. “We hit the leadoff man to leadoff the sixth with a four run lead, after just scoring three. You’ve got to put a zero on the board, and we hit the first guy with the first pitch. It can’t happen.”

Bullock came back out to start the seventh inning but after a leadoff walk and an infield single, O’Sullivan turned the ball over to his ace, Patrick Keating. The senior is usually the Gators’ Friday night pitcher, but O’Sullivan has decided recently that he will start the team’s Sunday game this weekend.

“I was trying to win the game,” O’Sullivan said of why he went to the team’s ace. “He had an extra days rest because we just switched the rotation up.”

Lost in the Gators poor pitching performance Wednesday night was the rebound for DeSclafani. He gave up five runs in three innings of work last week, but he had the McKethan Stadium crowd whispering no-hitter until the sixth when things came unraveled. He walked the leadoff batter to start the game but didn’t allow another base runner until the sixth.

“I felt pretty good,” DeSclafani said. “My last out didn’t go so well, so I really wanted to get out there today and redeem myself. I came in with a nice attitude. I worked ahead more and kept them off balance with my different pitches.”

Florida put together a run in the fourth and three in the fifth to get the 4-0 lead they took into the sixth. In the fourth, a two-out walk to Josh Adams, a Brandon McArthur single and a Clayton Pisani single to left field sent Adams home with the game’s first run.

In the fifth, Avery Barnes smacked a one out single to left and took second on a walk to Daniel Pigott. They came home when Matt den Dekker then blasted his first homerun of the season over the right field wall, staking the Gators to a 4-0 lead.

The Gators rallied back after FAU’s big inning. Riley Cooper got things started with a one-out single and that was followed by a walk to Mike Mooney. Barnes doubled home Cooper and Pigott grounded out to second to score Mooney to tie the game.

“We should be able to win when we score six runs at home,” O’Sullivan said.

Florida had runners in scoring position in the ninth but couldn’t deliver the game-tying run. The Gators put two on when den Dekker walked and beat the throw to second on Adams’ sacrifice bunt attempt.  But, McArthur struck out trying to lay down a bunt, Pisani popped out to left field and Preston Tucker grounded out to end the game.

The ninth was indicative of the kind of night it was for the Gators, who left ten runners on base.

The Gators get a day off Thursday before starting a three-game series with Duquesne Friday night.  First pitch is scheduled for 6:30.

Tune in to the Gator Country Baseball Show Thursday night at 9 p.m. for highlights on the week’s games.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.