Gators finish perfect week with sweep of LSU

The collective eye of the sports world has gone mad. It’s March, so the NCAA Tournament is in full swing and the Florida men’s basketball team is in the midst of a magical run comprising of 31-consecutive wins and a berth in the Final Four.

The four Florida seniors finally breaking through their Elite Eight wall has captivated not just Gator fans, but the entire country. The national media has woken up to the senior laden team from Gainesville that bucks the trend of one-and-done in college basketball and are just two games away from the ultimate goal.

Quietly — other than a benches clearing brawl involving the Heisman trophy winner — Kevin O’Sullivan and the Gators baseball team (19-9, 6-3 SEC) have been putting together a run of their own. The baseball team has won 13 of their last 16 games, including a 4-0 week against No. 1 FSU and No. 4 LSU.

“I’m pleased by how we played. It was a great weekend for us, a great week for us,” O’Sullivan said Sunday afternoon. “I thought Tuesday [vs. FSU] was another game, a whole new game with a totally different story to it. We’re pleased with how we played this weekend, [we] want them to enjoy it, but I’m hoping that we’re professional enough and mature enough to handle this weekend.”

The win vaulted Florida back into the Perfect Game top-25 (coming in at No. 24), a place where they hadn’t been since the first week of March.

Florida and LSU were rained out on Friday night, forcing the teams to play a double-header on Saturday. It’s far from ideal conditions to play a SEC series but baseball is subject to Mother Nature and the teams made the best of the situation.

Florida ripped off two wins on Saturday to take the series behind two stellar starting pitching performances. Eric Hanhold threw 7.1 innings of one-run baseball to lead Florida past LSU ace Aaron Nola. Justin Shafer’s solo blast in the bottom of the ninth with two outs walked the Gators off in style.

The fun was just getting started, however, and freshman Logan Shore took the mound for game two. Shore would not be outdone, hurling 8.2 innings of two-run baseball, giving way to Bobby Poyner with just one out left in the game to earn the save.

After pitching duels on Saturday, the bats would take over for the series finale. Florida took the game by a score of 11-7 and are now riding high with Florida Atlantic coming in the week before a trip to No. 20 Kentucky.


Player of the Week

Justin Shafer

Shafer threw four shutout innings against No. 1 FSU on Tuesday night to start his week. Shafer struggled on the mound in his second start of the week on Sunday against LSU but his bat made up for it.

Justin Shafer delivers against LSU.
Justin Shafer delivers against LSU.

Shafer — who has been struggling at the dish, broke out this week. He finished the week batting 4-9 (.444) while leading the team with six runs and six walks. His first homerun of the year came off of the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Year in Aaron Nola and clinched the first win of the series.


Pitchers of the Week

Eric Hanhold, (7.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K)

Hanhold was tasked with facing the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Year and he didn’t disappoint. Hanhold threw a gem, working into the eighth inning and held LSU to just one run. Hanhold is new to the rotation but performances like this will ensure he finds a home in the weekend rotation.


Logan Shore, (8.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K)

The freshman from Coon Rapids, Minnesota continues to amaze. Shore’s near-complete game against LSU might be the most impressive outing of his young career. He’s cemented his place in the weekend rotation.


Batter of the Week


John Sternagel works a walk against LSU.
John Sternagel works a walk against LSU.

John Sternagel, (4-12 (.333) 5 RBI)

Sternagel got a chance to start this week and the freshman did not disappoint. He led the team in batting, while driving in the first RBI of his career against FSU and finished the week with five runs batted in. Sternagel played a perfect third base and his play this week will likely garner him more playing time as he continues to platoon with Josh Tobias.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC