After game two of its weekend series in South Florida Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan held a team meeting on the bus outside of the hotel. Whatever was said Saturday night worked as the No. 17 Gators (5-3) took down the No. 20 Miami Hurricanes (4-3) 6-4 to avoid a sweep at the hands of their in-state rival in front of 3,500 at.
The Gators started with fireworks jumping on sophomore pitcher Andrew Suarez from the first inning. Shortstop Richie Martin doubled to start the game, then second baseman Casey Turgeon sacrifice bunted him over to third. Catcher Taylor Gushue then had an RBI single to score Martin and designated hitter Peter Alonso had an RBI triple to score Gushue.
Florida’s work in the first frame was not over however, Braden Mattson would have an RBI double to score Alonso and left fielder Ryan Larson had an RBI single to put UF’s run total at four by the end of the first. The Gators went through the order in one half inning for the first time this season, and O’Sullivan highlighted the talent throughout the lineup.
“I told the players before the game to be a gritty team and get out with a win no matter how we have to do it,” O’Sullivan said in a release. “Our strength is our depth. We’ve got a lot of young guys to work in – we started four freshmen in the lineup. John Sternagel got his first start and got a couple of hits.”
The Canes would crack back though when first baseman Brad Fieger’s RBI double scored left fielder Tyler Palmer. In the third leadoff hitter Dale Carey’s homerun made the score 4-2, but it was the closest Miami would get to tying the score or taking the lead outright.
Florida was able to do keep Miami at an arm’s distance all game with a cavalcade of pitchers. Seven took to the mound Sunday for UF, in total 13 UF relievers were used over the weekend series and Florida’s starters only went 11 innings total. In Sunday’s game starter Karsten Whitson lasted three innings before getting pulled and replaced by freshman A.J. Puk. The frosh ended up with the win –the first of his career. Florida’s skipper was pleased with how his pitchers fared in the final game of the series.
“A.J. Puk came in and did a nice job. Logan Shore did a nice job,” O’Sullivan said. “Kirby Snead came in and did a nice job. This is a different environment. It’s one thing to pitch at this level, but now you have to pitch on the road against a quality team.”
After each team plated two in the fourth and fifth innings respectively the scoring stopped but that was not the end of the threat to UF’s lead.
In the ninth, the Hurricanes had two on with the winning run at the plate in a strategic inning that saw two pinch hitters, a pinch runner and two pitching changes from managers trying to scrap for a win. In the end the Gators pulled it off, O’Sullivan hopes it’s a springboard for something more.
“We’re young,” he said. “We’re not nearly a finished product yet and we’ve got a lot of work to do, but I liked the fight we showed today and hopefully we’ll look back down the road and think, ‘that’s kind of what got us going.”