The lack of arms in for the Gators is beginning to show. Playing their fifth game in six days, the Gators fell to the North Florida Ospreys, 11-10, Wednesday night at McKethan Stadium. With only nine healthy pitchers on the team for the rest of the season, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan has his work cut out for him.
Wednesday night, the Florida pitchers combined to give up 19 hits, seven walks and hit three batters. O’Sullivan was even forced to use Saturday starter Patrick Keating for three innings.
“Pitching-wise we were terrible,” O’Sullivan said. “When we scored runs, we came right back and gave up runs. Nobody stepped up. We knew we were going to go to Keating at some point because we’re light on pitching.”
After falling in a 4-0 hole through an inning and a half, the Gators bounced back in the second inning with four runs. Jon Townsend led the inning off with a base hit up the middle and two outs later the rally began when Hampton Tignor singled to drive home Townsend, who had advanced to second on a wild pitch. Avery Barnes then singled, advancing Tignor to second and Matt den Dekker followed with a line drive over the right field fence for a three-run homerun, tying the game at 4-4.
After North Florida struck for three runs of their own in the third inning, Josh Adams led off the Florida half with a double into the right center field gap. A two out RBI single by McArthur scored him to narrow the gap to 7-5. McArthur later came out with an injury to his knee, and O’Sullivan said he didn’t know the severity of the injury.
Down 9-7 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, Florida struck for four runs. A one-out single for replacement catcher Teddy Foster started the inning. After Barnes struck out, den Dekker worked the pitcher for a walk. Figueroa then singled into right field to score Foster from second base. Adams then doubled into left-center field to score den Dekker from second. Cole Figueroa slid around the tag at home plate after a wild pitch to give the Gators a 10-9 lead.
“Craig Bell told me to be aggressive and to go on anything that I thought I could score on,” Figueroa said. “At that point in the game you have to take a chance, and that’s what I did.”
The high scoring game saw rare back-to-back scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth innings, as neither team could get a run across.
The Gators were three outs away from a victory with Saturday’s starting pitcher Patrick Keating on the mound. Chad Knight led the ninth inning off for the Ospreys with an infield single. Preston Hale then squared to bunt, drawing the Florida third baseman in, but Hale then pulled back and hit a double down the left field line. Travis Martin then drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Andrew Hannon reached on an RBI fielder’s choice to the shortstop, as Figueroa threw the Osprey runner out at third. T.J. Guady followed by hitting an infield fly to shortstop for the second out of the inning. Andy Warren ended the inning with a groundout to first base, but the Ospreys had already tied the game.
In the eleventh, Clint Franklin allowed a one out walk to Ryan Lowe and Sam Perry doubled into the left field corner. Kyle Mullaney was brought into the game and left a curve ball up in the zone for Knight to drop into center field for an RBI single. After Mullaney walked Hale to load the bases, freshman Travis Lawler came in for the Gators and got Martin to ground into a double play to end the inning. The damage was already done as the Ospreys took an 11-10 lead they would never relinquish.
“Any time you beat Florida it’s a big win,” UNF head coach Dusty Rhodes said. “But we’ve beaten ranked teams before.”
Despite the struggles of the Florida baseball team right now, Rhodes sees a bright future for the program.
“I know these coaches well,” Rhodes said of the Florida coaching staff. “These guys are going to change this program. I’m really impressed with Florida. These coaches have these guys going. They’ll do a great job here before their time is over.”
The Gators must now turn their focus to a weekend series on the road at Tennessee. O’Sullivan said he will make a slight change to the rotation, and move Tommy Toledo up to Saturday, while Keating will throw on Sunday since he threw 52 pitches Wednesday night. Billy Bullock will still start on Friday night, and first pitch will take place at 7 p.m.