Kevin O’Sullivan got his point across after Saturday’s embarrassment. The Florida Gators (10-3) played a complete game Sunday after a sloppy double header on Saturday to take the series with Brown (3-4) in a 13-2 win. The home team was hot from the first at bat.
The first inning began by gritty leadoff hitter Avery Barnes coaxing an eleven pitch walk. Freshman Josh Adams then hit the next pitch into right field, and Barnes was singled in by Cole Figueroa. Cleanup hitter Matt den Dekker doubled into the left field corner to score Adams and Figueroa, and the Gators were out to an early 3-0 advantage. After a Bryson Barber strikeout, Brandon McArthur flew out on the left-center field warning track. den Dekker moved to third base on the play, and scored when the throw went over the head of the cutoff man. When the 20-minute at-bat came to a close, the Gators found themselves on top 4-0.
“We came out with a different mindset today,” O’Sullivan said. “We were focused and we had a plan. Avery starts the game with an eleven pitch at-bat, and he guards the outer half. Our first three hits were to the other way, which we were not doing yesterday. ”
The second inning found the Gators trying to outdo themselves. It only took Avery Barnes four pitches to lead off with a walk, and this time Adams followed with a strikeout. Figueroa then reached on a throwing error by the shortstop, and den Dekker singled off the pitcher and ricocheted into left field to score Barnes. After Barber flew out to right field for the second out, McArthur reached on an error by the shortstop and scored Figueroa. Clayton Pisani followed with a double down the left field line to score den Dekker, and Jon Townsend scored McArthur and Pisani with a two-out single to left field, leaving the Gators up 9-0 after two innings.
“I’m starting to feel a lot more comfortable,” Townsend said. “I’ve still got a ways to go. They are starting to throw me a lot of off-speed stuff, so I was trying to hit it to right field. A lot of times I get in trouble trying to pull the ball all the time so I’m changing my approach.”
Freshman starter Tommy Toledo was dealing on the mound. It’s difficult for any pitcher to maintain a rhythm when your team is spending 20 minutes at the plate every inning, but Toledo did well despite lengthy time in the bench while the Gators hit. He threw five innings, giving up one run on a base hit to center field. Toledo gave up only two hits and one run, but did walk two batters and hit two.
“They don’t pick up his fastball,” O’Sullivan said. “Even if he doesn’t have great command of his secondary stuff, they don’t pick it up. He’s got that sling-action to it and so much sink action. He’s a competitor. Once again, that’s two weekends in a row. Today and down in Miami last weekend where he has got to pitch well, and he did.”
Asked if he can imagine where the Gators would be if Toledo signed with the San Diego Padres, who drafted him in the third round, over the summer, O’Sullivan said that isn’t even in his mind.
“I don’t even want to think about it,” O’Sullivan laughed.
Senior Josh Edmondson came out of the bullpen for an eight pitch sixth inning. He threw two hitless innings with two strikeouts.
Riley Cooper got his first collegiate hit in the sixth inning with a double over the head of the center fielder to drive in den Dekker.
Saturday’s doubleheader that yielded seven errors from the Gator defense served as motivation for their improvement on Sunday. The Gators played stellar
defense, including a sparkling play by Avery Barnes in left field to end the 7th inning.
“We made some nice plays,” O’Sullivan said. “We stuck our nose in there on some hard hit balls. We didn’t shy away from those.”
The Gators’ half of the 7th inning was aided by some inconsistencies from the Brown pitching staff. Barnes, Adams and Figueroa all walked to begin the inning. den Dekker reached on a fielder’s choice out at the plate, and Cooper struck out swinging. McArthur worked a bases loaded walk to bring Adams across the plate, before Chris Freshcorn grounded out.
Kyle Mullaney came in for the 8th inning, allowing one walk in an inning of work. The 9th inning was thrown by Michael Branham, who made his first appearance since April 7, 2006. His inning of work allowed one run, two hits and a walk.
The Gator pitchers gave up two hits in the first four innings, before not surrendering a hit until the 9th inning when Branham tripped while running after a grounder tapped to second.
The Gators now host Florida Gulf Coast, a solid instate baseball program, on Tuesday at 6:30 before opening SEC play next weekend with Auburn. The Gators will use this next week to prepare for the start of their conference games.
“If you would have asked me yesterday, I would have said no (we weren’t ready for SEC play),” O’Sullivan said. “I’m still not quite sure. I don’t know if you’re ever truly ready for that grind. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Whether we’re ready or not we’ve got to be. I’m not even worried about Auburn right now. We’ve got Florida Gulf Coast coming in who I think is 11-2. They’re going to be fired up coming in here.”