It was business as usual on Saturday as the Florida Gators (13-2) defeated the Maine Black Bears (4-11) to take the weekend series by a score of 6-1.
Kevin O’Sullivan sent sophomore left-hander A.J. Puk to the mound and Puk didn’t disappoint. The sophomore cruised through the first three innings without allowing a base runner. Meanwhile, the offense continued their hot stretch and gave Puk all the support he would need.
“I feel confidant out there. I just feel comfortable,” Puk said. “All my pitches have been going pretty well so I’m just going to try to keep that up.”
JJ Schwarz started the bottom half of the second off with a single and a red-hot Josh Tobias followed suit. Freshman Mike Rivera singled — his first of three hits (a career high) on the day — to plate Schwarz. A pair of strikeouts and a walk set the table for Buddy Reed. The sophomore walked to the plate with the bases full of Gators and worked into a favorable hitting count at 2-1. Reed laced a fastball all the way to the wall in right-center, clearing the bases, before he was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a triple. A 4-0 lead is all that Puk would need.
Puk worked quickly and efficiently until the fifth inning when he gave up his first hit of the day — a home run to Luke Morrill. It was the second home run that Puk has surrendered this season and broke up his no-hitter. Puk settled down after the home run, getting a groundout and two strikeouts to get his team back into the dugout.
The Gators and Black Bears played scoreless baseball the rest of the way until Florida added an insurance run in the eighth inning.
“Getting runs early in the game is important and then tacking on runs later in the game is really important,” Reed said. “That sixth inning run was a key run in the game.”
The Gators defense has shined this past week. Florida has committed just one error in the past 66 innings and the stout defense is giving the pitching staff confidence to throw strikes, as well as giving the bats the opportunity to strike first.
“Defense is the No. 1 thing. Obviously there’s pitching, hitting and base running but defense is the key to winning games and championships,” said Reed. “I’d say it’s helped our confidence on the mound and the sticks, just because with the defense we have we know we’re not going to let up runs in key situations.”
The Gators will go for their second consecutive weekend series sweep with a 1 pm start at McKethan Stadium on Sunday.
Post game Note:
Harrison Bader left the game with an ankle injury after getting back to first on a foul ball.
Buddy Reed on Bader:
It’s hard when a really good player, one of our best players actually, goes out. But you have other kids coming, freshmen coming in, that have done a great job. Although he’s out we can still do a god job and, hopefully, get more wins. It will be tough without him.”
Kevin O’Sullivan on Bader:
I can’t speculate but I think it’s a sprained ankle, I guess. We’ll have more information tomorrow or tonight.”