The Florida Gators (12-6) opened up SEC play with a 2-1 win over the visiting Arkansas Razorbacks (8-6) on Friday night in the SEC season opener. The win is not only the first conference win of the season but Florida’s sixth-straight victory.
“That’s what Friday Nights in the SEC are gonna look like, really outstanding ballgame by both teams,” Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “You gotta credit both starters. We kind of had the feeling it was gonna be a close, close game. Very, very proud of our guys.”
The game was set up to be a pitching duel with Florida throwing freshman Logan Shore and his 0.45 ERA against Arkansas lefty Jalen Beeks and his 0.68 ERA. The contest started off just the way you would have expected it to with these two talented hurlers on the bump. Shore used just 11 pitches to strike out two batters and sat the Razorbacks down in order in the top of the first.
Florida’s Richie Martin didn’t get the memo that this was supposed to be a pitching duel, singling to shallow right field to start Florida’s half of the inning. He was moved over to second by a Casey Turgeon sac bunt and an uncharacteristic balk from Beeks moved him over to third. Pete Alonso stroked a ball down the third base line and while Bobby Wernes was able to make a play on the ball to get Alonso out at first, the play allowed Martin to score and get the Gators on the board first.
Arkansas wouldn’t let that lead stick long, tying the game in the top half of the second inning.
Florida charged back with a run in the third. John Sternagel led the inning off with a single and flashed some great base running, taking third on a Buddy Reed single. Reed took second on the throw and just like that Florida had runners on second and third with no outs. After Martin went down swinging, Turgeon was able to hit a ground ball to short, plating Sternagel.
That run turned out to be all the Gator would need in the game. Shore went on to throw 6.1 innings, giving up seven hits and one earned run, while striking out five. The freshman was calm and composed on the mound for his first conference appearance.
“It’s as good a start as we’ve had. Forget the fact that he’s a freshman, it was a really, really good start,” O’Sullivan said of Shore. “Then you add in the fact that he’s a freshman, that’s pretty good. It’s pretty good stuff. It’s just poise. He just makes pitches. “
In the end, we never got the full pitching duel that we expected, well at least not from the Razorbacks. The box score won’t show it in a 2-1 victory, but the Gators had very good at bats and nine hits against a very talented pitching staff.
After Shore left the game, Bobby Poyner came in, throwing just two pitches to get an out before handing the ball to Aaron Rhodes.
The rest of the game was the Rhodes show. The right-hander threw the ball in the low-to-mid-90s and his slider was simply un-hittable. Rhodes threw 2.1 innings gave up no hits and struck out six of the seven batters that he faced on the night.
“He was on his game tonight.” Gushue said of Rhodes. “From start to finish, he was just aggressive and throwing everything for strikes. That was pretty much un-hittable stuff.”
Florida will go for the series win tomorrow night at 7 p.m. with Eric Hanhold set to make his first start of the season.
Probable Starters for Saturday Night
Florida: RHP Eric Hanhold (2-1, 2.63 ERA)
Arkansas: RHP Trey Killian (0-2, 4.66 ERA)