The Florida Gators (9-6) took another unconventional route to secure the series victory over the Connecticut Huskies (4-7) Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 extra inning affair.
Junior Zack Powers stepped up to the plate with the bases full of Gators and wore the first pitch he saw on the hip. Powers immediately threw both hands in the air, yelling in joy towards his dugout and took first base as freshmen outfielder Buddy Reed scored from third.
The win makes it three straight for the Gators who were powered once again by a stellar pitching performance from starter A.J. Puk and the bullpen. Despite slumping bats the Gators have put together three-straight wins and are looking at the positives.
“We’re winning right now, a three-game winning streak,” Kevin O’Sullivan said after the victory. “You gotta look at that. That’s great, let’s move, move forward.”
Heading into extra innings for the second straight game, Bobby Poyner (who earned the victory, moving to 2-2 on the year) took the mound for Florida and retired the Huskies in order, 1-2-3.
Reed led off Florida’s half of the 10th with his second base hit of the game. It was Reed’s first multi-hit game of the season but it wouldn’t be the last first for the freshmen from Maryland. O’Sullivan put on a slash play with Richie Martin in the box but when David Mahoney’s offering almost hit Martin, he pulled the bat back, allowing Reed to slide into second base with his first career stolen bag.
“Originally it was a slash, Richie obviously pulled back,” Reed said explaining the play. “I rolled my head back and saw that he almost got hit so it reassured me that I would probably make it safe. That felt good.”
Martin laid down a perfect bunt for a single, advancing Reed to third. With nobody out and runners on the corners, UCONN elected to intentionally walk Casey Turgeon — who has been red hot — to load the bases and set up the force out at home. That set the stage for Powers, who had come in as a defensive replacement for Pete Alonso in the ninth inning. Powers took one for the team and the Gators celebrated on the mound, another win on the résumé.
O’Sullivan sent out freshmen Logan Shore and A.J. Puk to start the first two games of the weekend series and both starters looked like anything but freshmen.
The two combined to throw 11.1 innings, giving up just five hits, one earned run, two walks and struck out 11.
Puk was pulled after just 4.1 innings today with 75 pitches thrown but it was his best start of the season and he did a good job of keeping the Huskie hitters off balance while the Gator bats tried to figure something out.
Law of Averages
There’s no way to hide it, the Gators aren’t hitting the baseball well through the first 15 games and it’s starting to affect their confidence. Baseball is a game of failure so every player is used to going in and out of slumps. Kevin O’Sullivan is confident in his batters and expects them to turn things around soon.
“There are signs, there are a lot of positives. Let’s face it, everybody feels good about their game when they’re hitting. That’s the way it works,” O’Sullivan said. “I know the nature of the game and I know how these kids think. The offense will come around. I’ve seen them play in the fall and I’ve seen them play in the spring, I’ve seen them. It’s not like I didn’t see signs of us not hitting, I felt good about it. Like I said, we’ll continue working and stay positive.”
- The Florida pitching staff combined for season-high 16 strikeouts on the day.
- A.J. Puk struk out seven — matching Logan Shore’s season high for strikes outs (vs. FGCU on Feb.27)
- A day after his 17-game hitting and 32-consecutive games reaching base streaks ended, Richie Martin started a new streak by doubling to left-center in the fifth inning.