The Florida Gators (1,0) kicked their season off right with a 9-1 win over the Rhode Island Rams (0-1) on Friday night at McKethan Stadium.
The Northeast has been battered by snowstorms and the Rams have had to practice indoors for much of the spring. On Friday they looked like a team who had been practicing inside, committing five errors that led to five unearned runs.
“In all fairness, they haven’t been outside very much so they have not been able to scrimmage,” manager Kevin O’Sullivan said following the game. “That short stop (Tim Caputo, who had three errors) is a good player but, you know, when you’re not able to have a lot of game like situations that’s what happens.”
The Gators didn’t waste time getting on the board. Buddy Reed singled and advanced to second on a throwing error. Two batters later Harrison Bader shot a ball back up the middle, scoring Reed and giving the Gators a 1-0 advantage in the opening frame.
Florida would add a pair of runs in the second and fourth innings as Logan Shore cruised through the Rams lineup. Shore made his first start of the season as the opening day starter and lived up the hype that surrounded him after a fantastic freshman campaign. The sophomore dealt five innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just four hits, while striking out four and walking none. Shore was on a strict pitch count (every starting pitcher will be at the beginning of the season) and left the game after throwing 72 pitches (47 for strikes), earning himself the win.
“I think the theme with Logan is that, ‘Logan is Logan,’” Bader said. “You know what you get out of him. His consistency and the way he goes about his business is just tremendous. He did what he needed to do and that’s what’s expected.”
The Gators held a 5-0 lead over Rhode Island heading into the fifth inning. Bader — who was batting cleanup for the first time in his life — stepped up to the plate and launched a 1-2 offering high and deep into a cold night sky. The left fielder made solid contact and his bat flip in the box let everyone know that he knew this one wasn’t going to be caught.
“It’s kind of one of those things where I guess if it goes out by a foot or a few feet you kind of feel it,” Bader said. “Just a good swing on the ball.”
It was Bader’s first home run since April 23 against FAMU and it gave Florida even more cushion.
The Gators scored three in the inning and with an 8-0 lead, O’Sullivan turned to the bench to get some freshmen playing time. Three rookies earned starts today — making it the third consecutive season that O’Sullivan has started three freshmen on opening day — in catcher Mike Rivera, DH JJ Schwarz and 2B Dalton Guthrie. They weren’t the only freshmen to play as O’Sullivan emptied the bench, playing a total of eight freshmen in the season opener.
“You can’t practice [it], it’s just totally different,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s totally different and it’s good for Dalton [Guthrie] to get a hit and JJ [Schwarz] to get a hit and Mike [Rivera] got a good swing on a fly ball to right center and got a RBI.”
“It was up and down the lineup. There were a lot of guys who contributed.”
Florida will take on Rhode Island on Saturday at 4 p.m. at McKethan Stadium and try to take the opening series for the eight consecutive season — and every season since O’Sullivan took over the program.