The Gator pitching staff came through with nine shutout innings Wednesday night as Florida breezed to a 15-0 victory over the Campbell Camels at McKethan Stadium. Freshman starter Travis Lawler gave the Gators five solid innings and the Florida bullpen preserved the shutout with four spotless innings of relief.
“It was a lot better being out there not during my first outing,” said Lawler, who earned his first collegiate victory. “I felt a lot more comfortable and was working on it the whole week. It helps my confidence a lot, especially now that I have a win under my belt.”
Lawler gave up just three hits and allowed only one Camel as far as second base as he lowered his ERA from 12.27 to 5.19.
J.K. LaCoste, Cody Barnes, Stephen Locke and Kyle Mullaney each followed Lawler with a scoreless inning.
As they did Tuesday night, Florida scored early and often to put the game away. Clayon Pisani started the first inning with a one out walk, and was doubled in by a Cole Figueroa shot to left-center field. One out later Bryson Barber walked and Jonathan Pigott extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a run-scoring base hit to left field to drive home Figueroa. Pigott also contributed with a great catch in the eighth inning.
“He [Pigott] can swing the bat well,” O’Sullivan said. “It was really nice to see him make that catch out there. It’s nice to see a guy give some good effort when you’re up by a bunch. I know the pitchers appreciate it. [Pigott] has been consistent. He’s as strong as an ox. He does fly under the radar and I really don’t know why.”
A one-out single by Teddy Foster got things going in the second inning. He advanced on a fielder’s choice and scored on a double by Pisani. A walk and an error followed, bringing home Pisani to make it 4-0.
The Gators scored three times in the third inning. Evan Chambers reached on an error and Foster followed with a walk to set the stage for Matt den Dekker, who hammered a moon shot of a home run that landed on the road behind right field to make it 7-0.
“I’m getting in there and getting more at-bats trying to see the ball better,” den Dekker said. “I’m feeling a lot more comfortable.”
The Gators scored three more times in the seventh thanks to a landmark home run by a freshman. Jon Townsend reached third on a throwing error by the Campbell third baseman and came home on a one-out single by Hampton Tignor. That set the stage for freshman Chris Freshcorn, who hit a two-run homer on his first collegiate swing to put the Gators out front, 10-0.
“I was just ready to get my first at-bat,” Freshcorn said. “It was a fastball down the middle. I was looking fastball the whole time.”
Not only was it Freshcorn’s first collegiate swing, Coach O’Sullivan said it was his first swing in a couple weeks.
“He’s really loosey-goosey,” O’Sullivan said. “He was sitting on the bench and I asked him if he could swing. He hadn’t taken batting practice in weeks. I don’t even think he took any practice swings, and the first pitch he sees he hits out. He’s got a great mind for the game. That’s kind of how he is.”
The Gators continued to score runs in bunches in the eighth inning. Pigott got a rally going with a two-out infield single, his third hit of the game. After a Townsend walk, Chambers got his first career hit on a single to left. When the Campbell left fielder didn’t come up with the ball cleanly, Pigott and Townsend scored while Chambers ended up on third base. Tignor followed that with his first career home run, a two-run shot that made it 14-0. After den Dekker followed with a double off the left field wall, Freshcorn continued his impressive debut with a two-strike single up the middle to bring den Dekker around.
“He might be our toughest guy to strike out,” O’Sullivan said. “We make jokes about it. To square up two balls like that without taking batting practice in a few weeks is pretty impressive.”
The Gators focus now turns to the Brown Bears, who come to Gainesville Friday night at 6:30. The pitching rotation will see some changes, as Friday night starter Kyle Mullaney will be taken out.
“We’re going to get Billy (Bullock) back out there on Friday,” O’Sullivan said. “He needs to pitch. We’ll stay with Keating on Saturday. We’re going to try and extend him and Toledo this weekend.”