Florida flexes muscle in 15-2 win

GAINESVILLE — Justin Shafer may ask the team’s catering service to serve sloppy joes with macaroni and cheese more often.

The Florida freshman was 1 for 2 with a whopping six RBI in the No. 1 Gators’ 15-2 win against Florida A&M under a full moon at McKethan Stadium on Wednesday night.

“I’ve never seen a line like that,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “And what’s even better than that is I think he was 0 for 0 with four ribbies up until his double.

“He stung the ball all night long.”

In Shafer’s eyes, he didn’t have to sting it too hard on three sacrifice flies.

“My team was on base, so I really didn’t have to do much except for just hit a pop up every time I got up,” said Shafer, who’s from Lake Wales, Fla. “Everyone else in front of me did a great job of getting on base, so I didn’t have to do much except for put it in play to score everybody.”

Shafer drove in his final two runs for Florida (12-1) on a double off the left field wall to create the final margin in front of a crowd of 2,673.

A trip to Disney Land isn’t in the postgame plans for Shafer, who also pitched a perfect ninth inning. Instead, he planned to celebrate his big night by, “going to eat and go to sleep.”


The most intriguing play of the night was when Shafer drove in a rare two runs on a sacrifice fly to deep right center field. Nolan Fontana, who tagged up at second, never let up as he rounded third base and slid in ahead of the tag at home.

“The center fielder made a great play,” Fontana said. “I saw him dive and catch it and that’s when I took off. (Then) I just picked up (UF third base coach) Craig (Bell) and he was waving me home and that was pretty much it.”

Florida flexed its offensive muscle for the second game in a row and has outscored it last two opponents by a combined score of 31-3.

“We are swinging the bats well and trying to get momentum going into this weekend (a three-game home series against Florida Gulf Coast),” Fontana said. “[O’Sullivan} was saying that these could be trap games for us.

“You’ve got to stay up and keep playing because anybody can beat you on any given night, so we were trying to stay focused throughout the game.”

Florida Atlantic entered the game riding an 11-game losing streak after winning its season opener 5-2 against Mississippi Valley. Still, the Rattlers (1-12) gave the Gators a little scare early when they took a 2-1 lead into the third inning.

“You’ve got to credit Florida A&M early on,” O’Sullivan said. “But we’re really pleased with how our offense stayed in there and responded. I think we scored in six of the eight innings and I thought our relief pitching was outstanding.”

Facing the early deficit, Florida scored two runs in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings and then tacked on four runs in both the sixth and seventh innings. Fontana and Preston Tucker each drove in two runs while Tyler Thompson continued his hot hitting by going 2 for 3.

The large lead allowed O’Sullivan to empty his bench in the late innings, giving several underclassmen some game time.

“I think it’s good for our team morale,” he said. “But quite frankly, a lot of these young guys have earned the playing time.

“To come out and swing the bat the way we have to get some solid pitching and play clean defense, (and)get in a lot of different players is what you would like to have happen in midweek situations.”

Johnny Magliozzi allowed two runs on six hits while pitching the first three innings for Florida. Greg Larson (2-0) pitched the next three shutout innings to pick up the win.

Florida hosts Florida Gulf Coast for a three-game series that begins at 7 p.m. on Friday. O’Sullivan said the tentative pitching rotation will be Hudson Randall on Friday, Brian Johnson on Saturday and Jonathan Crawford on Sunday.

Gator Tales

• Zack Powers, a sophomore third baseman from Seffner (Fla.) Armwood High, is expected to redshirt after injuring the labrum in his right (throwing) shoulder.

“He has decided — his family, our training staff and coaching staff — that the best thing for him right now is he’s looking toward a redshirt situation,” O’Sullivan said. “He dislocated shoulder before season started, spent last month trying to rehab it and it has not came back to the point where he feels really comfortable.

“Quite frankly, I think it’s probably the best decision for him, to go ahead and get his surgery, get his labrum cleaned up, so he can get ready to go next fall.”

• Ryan Harris made his second pitching appearance on consecutive nights when he came on to start the eighth inning. The right-hander struck out first batter swinging at a breaking ball low and away before getting a pop out and a ground out to retire the side in order.

“It is encouraging to see Ryan Harris go out there for a second night in a row. He really threw the ball well,” O’Sullivan said.

• Preston Tucker moved into fourth all-time on the Gators’ career hits list wth an RBI double in the fifth inning.

• Florida displayed aggressive base running on two occasions during Wednesday’s win. The first was when Nolan Fontana took second base on a fly out to deep center field. The second came in the sixth when Shafer picked up two RBI on a fly ball to deep right center field.

• Mike Zunino, batting in the designated hitter spot after freshman Taylor Gushe got the start at catcher, failed to get a hit in the game. Austin Maddox pinch hit for Zunino in the sixth, ending Zunino’s hitting streak of 15 consecutive games.

• In his first career at-bat, Brandon Sedell was credited with an RBI triple when he hit a low liner to center field that FAMU’s Scott Sheplak failed to scoop up on a diving attempt.

• Connor Mitchell singled in the seventh for his first career hit while Vickash Ramjit picked up his first hit in eight at-bats this season when he led off the inning with a single on the first pitch he saw.

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Mike Capshaw brings a wealth of experience to the Gator Country team. He’s been overseeing all editorial aspects of GatorCountry.com and Gator Country magazine by managing our team of staffers, interns and freelancers. He is now moving into a bigger role as a reporter by covering the football and basketball beats as well as providing coverage of all sports on campus. Mike’s 15 years in the business has included more than six years of covering SEC sports and recruiting at a daily newspaper in Arkansas. He has also helped launch a newspaper, magazines, websites and even a sports talk radio show. Because Mike puts family ahead of his career, he left the place where he was established when his wife received an opportunity to further her career at UF. He took a leap of faith that he could find a job in the Gainesville area and worked for a year at a newspaper group before joining the Gator Country family in November, 2011. Mike has won Florida Press Association awards for Best Sports Game Story and Best Sports Feature Story in the past two years as well as a company-wide award at his former newspaper group that includes some 60 publications, for Excellence in Sports Reporting. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeCapshawGC.