The No. 9 Florida Gators (36-13) finished off their non-conference schedule with a 5-1 victory over USF (29-19-1) on Tuesday night thanks in large part to a career-night for sophomore Dane Dunning, who earned his fifth win of the season.
Dunning — who had lost his spot in the weekend rotation a few weeks back — struck out a career-high eight batters over four innings of work, allowing a lone run.
“I felt good, especially coming off of Kentucky where I had a bad outing,” said Dunning. “It’s a big push for me, and it’s really helpful. This was a confidence booster.”
Dunning allowed just one hit his first trip through the batting order and the Florida offense was quick to pick him up and give him an early lead.
Harrison Bader started the bottom of the second off with his team-leading 13th double of the season. Josh Tobias followed Bader’s act with a double of his own and Buddy Reed — not to be shown up by the two upper classmen — followed suit, giving Florida a 2-0 advantage.
Dunning got into trouble in the fifth inning, allowing back-to-back singles before Kevin O’Sullivan pulled him from the game in favor of Kirby Snead. Florida’s lefty specialist, Snead was able to retire the first 10 batters he faced on Tuesday with a USF lineup that featured seven left-handed bats.
Dalton Guthrie led Florida off in their half of the fifth inning with a walk and Richie Martin cleared the bases with his fourth home run — and longest — of the season. Tobias doubled right after that and was brought home by Buddy Reed two batters later, extending the advantage to 5-1.
Snead cruised through the Bulls lineup, surrendering just one hit over four innings of work before Eric Hanhold pitched a perfect ninth inning to finish the game.
“From a pitching and defensive standpoint, that was as clean of a game as we have had in a while. Offensively, I think the home run by Richie was great,” O’Sullivan said. “We had 10 hits tonight, six of the 10 hits for extra-bases. It was a good and clean game for us.”
Florida will travel to Vanderbilt on Wednesday in preparation for a Thursday, Friday, Saturday series that will go a long way in determining who wins the SEC East — if not the SEC outright.
The Gators are currently two games back of the Commodores in the league standings.