Gators pound Auburn with bats, defense

In his post game press conference after Florida’s 7-1 whipping of Auburn on Friday night, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan expressed concern about his team’s inability to score runs in the first three and last three innings. Today, in their second Southeastern Conference game of the season, the Gators got off to his kind of start and won, 12-8.

Six runs in the first. Two more in the second. The Gators also chased Auburn starter Scott Shuman after he had faced only 12 batters. Florida offense worked out another O’Sullivan concern by striking out out only twice compared to 12 Ks on Friday night. 

“We talked about it last night at length with the team when we got them inside and we also talked about it this morning,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s a constant battle, you’ve got to continually keep talking about it. They responded today and did a nice job that way.”

The six-run first began when leadoff hitter Avery Barnes singled up the gut. He was out on Matt den Dekker’s fielder’s choice but Cole Figueroa singled to the second baseman. Clean-up hitter Josh Adams then powered a Scott Shuman pitch that rather easily cleared the center field fence a few steps left of the 400 foot marker to give the Gators a 3-0 lead.

Adams is 6-for-8 with a home run and two doubles in this series. He has five RBI’s and scored three runs. 

Two batters later, third baseman Jon Townsend walked on a 3-2 count. Right fielder Justin Pigott ripped Shuman’s next pitch to down the third base line to put runners on the corners. Designated hitter Clayton Pisani belted a three-run home run over the left field fence to give Florida (13-2, 2-0) a 6-0 first inning advantage.

“Yeah, that was definitely a big boost of confidence and confidence,” Pisani said. “I’m glad to get us on the boards, especially with two outs. Two out runs are huge for us. They [the coaches] stressed getting right out of the gates right out of the first inning, second inning, and third inning. Getting a lead, that’s huge especially for Patrick (Keating). It lets him settle down a little bit and throw strikes in the zone and let the defense play.”

The Tigers (11-7, 0-2) scored a run of their own in the top of the second. With two outs, Ben Jones singled up the middle. Ryan Jenkins followed with a single to center field, moving Jones to third. He scored on Matt Hall’s single up the gut.

Florida picked up two more runs in the second. Den Dekker led off with a single up the middle, advanced to second when Figueroa singled to center field and came home on a long single to right center by Adams. Brandon McArthur followed with a run scoring single to through the hole in the left side of the Auburn infield to give Florida an 8-1 lead.

Things looked awfully good defensively as well for the Gators. In the Auburn fourth, designated hitter Kevin Patterson singled to start the frame. Luke Greinke was hit by a Keating pitch on a 2-2 count and then Ben Jones slapped a ball to the mound. The ball went off Keating’s glove and was caught by Adams, who charged forward to haul it in. He flipped it backward to Figueroa who stepped on the bag at second and then fired it first base to McArthur in time for the Florida triple play.

“I thought it was a double play,” Figueroa said. “I thought that it hit the ground, so when I heard that it was a triple play I thought that it was going to be on ESPN or something.”

“The ball went off of Keating’s glove,” Adams said. “I saw it in the air and went after it and luckily got a glove on it and was able to catch it. There’s really not much that you can say when you turn a triple play. That’s the first time that I’ve ever been a part of that. It’s very exciting and kind of a game changing play right there. Momentum just totally shifted our way.”

He was not certain that Figueroa was there when he flipped the ball to the bag. He was and the rest is history. 

“I was more fired up than I think Keating was,” O’Sullivan said. “The most excited guy should have been Keating. I think that he was just shocked. No, that was the first time I’ve ever been associated with one. It was a heads up play. It just seems that Adams or Figueroa are a part of every single thing that happens on the field and once again, they were involved in that one too.”

Buddy Munroe doubled to start the Florida sixth inning. Two outs later, Figueroa singled up the middle to score Munroe and the Gators led 9-1.

The Tigers began to close the gap in the top of the seventh with a two-out rally. Mike Bianucci singled and scored when Morris popped a two-run home run over the left-centerfield fence to close the gap to 9-3.

Florida’s Jon Townsend hit his second home run of the series when he blasted Auburn reliever Bradley Hendrix’s second pitch over the left field fence to stake Florida’s lead to 11-3. Two batters later, Pisani singled to left. He scored on Munroe’s second double of the day. Munroe advanced to third on the throw home and that brought out Auburn head coach Tom Slater, who signaled to the bullpen for yet another reliever. This time he opted for Austin Hubbard, who issued consecutive walks to Barnes and den Dekker to load the bases. Figueroa reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring Munroe for the Gators third run of the frame.

Auburn scored a run in the eighth inning and added four more in the ninth. In the top of the ninth, O’Sullivan went to his pen for Dustin Bamberg, who was making his first appearance on the mound in a Florida uniform. The catcher turned pitcher ran the count 3-2 to Morris who eventually singled. Pinch hitter David Cunningham followed with the single to left-center. Patterson singled to third base to load them up. Fletcher fouled out to shortstop for the first out. Jones was retired on a pop up to first base. Tony Caldwell then doubled down the left field line to score Morris and Cunningham. Hall reached on a fielder’s choice when Townsend temporarily forgot that the force was in play at third base. He fielded the ball, stepped on the bag, and was ready to throw on to first. However, Patterson scored and Caldwell safely slid into the bag at third. Hargett then singled to right field, scoring Caldwell to make the score 12-8. O’Sullivan went back to the bullpen for Kyle Mullaney, who got Bianucci to fly out to den Dekker to end thr game. 

“He (Bamberg) throws strikes,” O’Sullivan said of Bamberg. “He threw an intra-squad the other day. He throws three pitches for strikes. I don’t think that he pitched poorly to be honest with you. Some balls found some holes and it’s just one of those things. But, he threw strikes and he didn’t walk anybody. I was disappointed in the defensive collapse at the end. We kind of lost out focus there. If we get that last ball hit to Townsend, we’re out of that inning. I wasn’t disappointed in the way he threw to be honest with you.”

Keating (2-0) pitched five innings and allowed seven hits and only one earned run. He walked two and struck out two as well. 

Florida clinched the series, but will go for the sweep tomorrow afternoon. They will throw true freshman Tommy Toledo (2-0, 3.00) against Auburn left hander Cory Luckie (2-1, 1.35). The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.