The Florida Gators (6-1) used a strong performance from five pitchers and a Harrison Bader long ball to finish off a series win over Miami (5-3) with a 2-1 win in front of 4,734 fans at McKethan Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
“I thought our pitching was great today, I thought we had good at bats against a really good Miami team, I’d be remiss not to say that first,” manager Kevin O’Sullivan said. “ I thought they played really well. They’re a good team. They’re an Omaha caliber type team in my opinion.”
For the second time this week the Gators had a starting pitcher allow no hits as sophomore right-hander Dane Dunning (2-0, 1.93) threw five hitless innings on the way to his second win of the season. Dunning breezed through the first five batters of the game before losing his control with two outs in the top of the second.
Dunning walked George Iskenderian, who then stole second before Dunning issued another walk to Garrett Kennedy. Kevin O’Sullivan came out to the mound to try and settle his sophomore down but Dunning couldn’t find his control, throwing a wild pitch that advanced both runners before walking the bases loaded. A passed ball two pitches later have Miami a lead, despite not getting a hit.
“He battled through it,” O’Sullivan said. “I know how this is going to sound, because he gave up no hits over five innings, but trust me, I’ve seen him shaper in scrimmages. He’s got an electric arm. “I’m hopping this is an outing that gives him huge confidence moving forward.”
The Gators picked up Dunning — who settled down after the second inning — in the bottom half of the third. Freshman third baseman Christian Hicks walked to start the inning and advanced to third on back-to-back groundouts. Buddy Reed — who finished the weekend series a blistering 8-for-17 — singled through the right side to even the score.
Junior Harrison Bader came up in the third inning and launched a 3-2-curveball ball high and deep over everything in left field. The left fielder started the season a tear but was just 1-for-14 against Miami prior to the home run.
“It felt good. I found myself in a lot of two-strike counts, it’s just kind of how the game goes sometimes,” said Bader. “You can never lose that batting aspect, you’re not out until you have three strikes and I was just trying to put a good swing on the ball.”
Bader’s home run proved to be the final run that we would see in the game as the Canes were held to just three hits in the series finale. Dunning was replaced by left-hander Danny Young who gave up just one hit over 1.2 innings before Shaun Anderson and Kirby Snead got the Gators four outs away from a win. Snead gave up a hit to the only batter he faced and then Florida put the ball in the hands of their closer, junior college transfer Taylor Lewis. Lewis — who throws from a low ¾ arm slot — was tasked with getting the final four outs of the game in what was his first save opportunity of the season.
He pumped a few fastballs in at 94 mph, the adrenaline of the rivalry fueling him. “Big rivalry with Miami, there’s always adrenaline going on,” said Lewis. “Fans get your adrenaline going, so that’s another big thing.” The weekend attendance of 14,476 was the fourth largest crowd for a three-game series at The Mac. Lewis needed only 10 pitches to get the final four outs, “he was nails,” said O’Sullivan after the game and the Gators held on for a Sunday and series win.
Hitters of the week
Reed started the season off 1-for-14 against Rhode Island but exploded to hit 8-for-17 this week against USF and Miami. Reed’s performance brought his batting average up from .071 to .281 in just a week. Reed also had a walk off hit on Friday night — the first walk off hit he’s ever had (according to him) to give Florida a win in the series opener. Reed received a pair of prescription eye glasses prior to the game on Wednesday. (pictured right)
Pitchers of the week
Brett Morales & Bobby Poyner
Morales kicked things off in his hometown of Tampa with an absolute gem. The sophomore was scheduled to pitch on Tuesday but rain canceled his start and pushed him back to Wednesday. Morales threw six perfect innings of baseball with seven strikeouts to earn his first win of the season. Kevin O’Sullivan pulled Morales after the sixth inning when Morales hit his pitch count of 70. Bobby Poyner was scheduled to pitch on Friday after Logan Shore. Shore threw just nine pitches before leaving with a tight hip flexor. That forced Poyner into the game early but he was clearly unaffected by the early outing. Poyner threw 5.1 innings of four hit baseball, striking out a career-high seven batters. Poyner gave up just four hits and two runs in the fifth, throwing 73 pitches in a no-decision.