Gators hang-on for 11-10 win over B-CC

Florida jumped out to an 11-1 lead over Bethune-Cookman through six innings. Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan went to his bullpen, giving three pitchers the opportunity to prove themselves. Unfortunately, they were ineffective and allowed the Wildcats to close the gap to a single swing of the bat before Josh Edmondson and the Gators defense got them out of their grip for an 11-10 victory before 2,762 at McKethan Stadium on Wednesday night.

The numbers don’t lie. Deciphering the problem was easy in this one.

Right-hander Kyle Mullaney (1-4, 5.80) got the start for Florida and picked up his first win of the season. He pitches a three hit shutout, walking three and striking out three. B-CC hit only .176 on the evening against Mullaney.

The bullpen was a near disaster. Both bullpens.

Bethune-Cookman (33-20) scored each of their 10 runs on the Florida bullpen. They began with a solo home run off often-used Clint Franklin, seven runs were charged to right-hander Adam Allen, junior Michael Branham, and junior southpaw J.K. LaCoste, who have seen little to no action, while Edmondson surrendered two hits and two earned runs in the ninth. The result was a 22.50 ERA. The Wildcats hit .476 off the Florida bullpen.

“It was one of those nights where we knew, well we were hoping anyway to get a good lead and be able to use some guys who we haven’t been able to use in awhile to rest our pens,” O’Sullivan said, “Ultimately, we were able to do that. The end result was exactly what we wanted, we got a win, but we didn’t want it to be that close at the end. The bottom line is that we got to rest (Tommy) Toledo, and (Tony) Davis and couple of those guys that have been pitching an awful lot. That’s the most important thing right now.”

Yes, the much anticipated debut of basketball forward turned baseball pitcher Adam Allen was not as promising as hoped. Allen appeared nervous and struggled to locate his pitches at times, suffered with an ineffective breaking ball at others, but making it through an inning without getting the hook.  It’s hard to find fault with Allen, the true freshman just joined the baseball team several weeks ago. Hopefully, he’ll improve next time out and the Gators could use another arm to get them through the potentially numerous innings during conference and NCC Tournament play. 

“He fell behind in the count,” O’Sullivan said. “He wasn’t quite as sharp as he was in intrasquad. The breaking ball was a lot better. Maybe he had a little nerves going a little bit. He’s a strike thrower for the most part. He don’t walk a lot of people. I thought that he did fine.”

Branham pitched in relief when the Gators took the field in the eighth inning. He allowed a bomb that was launched out of the park and into the neighborhood surrounding the O’Connell Center by Torres. He gave up another single, but got Neal Jones to ground back to the mound for the first out and secured the assistance of the Florida defense for an inning ending double play.

Left-hander J. K. LaCoste was called upon to close things out in the ninth, but gave up three consecutive singles without recording an out and was replaced by closer Josh Edmondson, who picked-up a fielder’s choice for the first out and allowed a single before Osvaldo Torres ripped a Grand Slam to close the gap to 11-10. Edmondson kept the ball down and secured two ground outs to end the game and preserve the Florida victory.

Branham and LaCoste were provided a terrific opportunity- pitching with a comfortable lead and a chance to pitch in a non-conference game before the home crowd. Unfortunately, neither offered any hope that they have improved and are ready to help the Gators as they close out the regular season and prepare for the post-season. 

It was one of those bizarre twists and turns that leave you shaking your head and proclaiming, “It’s baseball…that’s mid-week baseball.”

Things started off just fine for the Orange and Blue.

Second baseman Clayton Pisani led off the bottom of the fourth with a single through the gap and into left field. He moved to second on a wild pitch by Bethune-Cookman starter Christopher Chapman. Catcher Hampton Tignor walked on a 3-1 pitch. Avery Barnes reached on a fielder’s choice as Chapman fielded the ball and threw far over the head of third baseman Emmanuel Castro, which allowed Pisani to score and Tignor and Barnes to move into scoring position. Third baseman Josh Adams then drove a single to the left side scoring Tignor. Shortstop Cole Figueroa also reached on a fielder’s choice scoring Barnes for the Gators 3-0 lead.

Pisani singled once more with one out in the bottom of the fourth with one out. He moved to second on another wild pitch. Tignor singled up the middle, scoring Pisani for the 4-0 Florida lead.

“It seems that as though when we do play well, those guys at the bottom (of the order) have been contributing,” O’Sullivan stated. “It’s not always been the middle of the order guys. I think that happened this past weekend at South Carolina. The bottom of the order guys have been giving us good efforts. It was good to see them do that. Hampton ain’t been out there in awhile. It was good to see him back out there. We also had a chance to rest McArthur playing first base, so overall we accomplished what we wanted to.”

In the fifth, Bethune-Cookman reliever Roman Lancara walked Figueroa on a 3-2 pitch. Figueroa stole second base and advanced to third on Brandon McArthur’s fly ball to center field, which moved Figueroa to third base. He scored on yet another wild pitch to give the Gators a 5-0 lead.

The Gators exploded in the sixth offensively. They wasted little time putting men on the bases. Jonathan Pigott took over for Riley Cooper in right field and singled in his first trip to the plate. Pisani was hit by a pitch. Tignor loaded the bases with a single to left field. Pigott scored on a passed ball to give the Gators a 6-0 lead. Barnes walked to load them up again. After another B-CC pitching change, Josh Adams flew out to center field. Figueroa walked, scoring Pisani. McArthur was then walked scoring Tignor for a 8-0 lead. McArthur was lifted for pinch-runner Bryson Barber. Townsend followed with a single, scoring Barnes. Another pitching change and den Dekker drove-in Figueroa and Barber to give the Gators the 11-1 advantage.

Florida (29-18) will board the buses tomorrow morning for a flight to Birmingham. They’ll face the Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday night. The Gators weekend rotation looks to be Billy Bullock, Stephen Locke, and Patrick Keating, giving them the righty-lefty-righty match-up against a team that Sully described as right handed heavy in the batters’ box.