Junior starter Patrick Keating (1-0) threw 5.1 shutout innings, while first baseman Brandon McArthur collected three of the Gators five hits in their 4-0 victory over Siena on Saturday afternoon at McKethan Stadium. The win captured the series for Florida (2-0) over the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference school.
“Tonight was a different night than last night,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “The pitching had to step up. We faced a tough lefthander, who had a pretty tough change-up going and had a different look. We couldn’t really get the running game going and had a tough time getting leadoff men on base. But, offensively, we got the first two runs with two outs and nobody on, so they battled there and gave us a little breathing room.
“Patrick (Keating) had a real nice outing and put the ball on the ground. Once again, we didn’t walk anybody and we didn’t commit an error. I don’t want to jinx us, but were playing really good defensively and making people earn it.”
Keating allowed just five hits and walked none, while fanning four Saints batters. The righthander tied his previous career high in innings worked, which he established a year ago against South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. He worked ahead in the count through the first four innings of the game and consistently kept the ball down.
“He (Keating) was more over the top, four seam fastball straighter, more of a twelve-six breaking ball,” O’Sullivan said. “We moved his slot over and he’s getting a little more sink and he’s done a nice job. He could close. He could start, but over the last month or so since we’ve come back from Christmas break he’s been able to throw three pitches. To have one of your better arms sitting in the bullpen instead of being able to get thirty innings out of him, getting ninety or one-hundred innings of him makes more sense.”
Keating deferred the praise and heaped it on his teammates, who played flawlessly in the field behind him.
“I thought the defense played real well behind me,” Keating said. “Me and Buddy (Munroe) go into a groove. He knew what I wanted to pitch and thought that the defense played really well. It feels good being able to throw whatever you want to on any count. It’s good that Sully has confidence in the catchers and the pitchers.”
Meanwhile, McArthur led the Florida offense with a 3-for-3 performance. The senior hit a double and two singles driving home two base runners.
The Gators wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, securing a two-out walk by shortstop Cole Figueroa. He scored on McArthur’s double that sailed over the head of Siena center fielder Nick Messinger. McArthur drilled the 2-2 offering, which proved to be the biggest hit of the day. Figueroa circled the bases on the play to give Florida a 1-0 lead.
“That’s what we’ve been taught, two strikes battle,” McArthur said. “He got the ball over the middle of the plate and I was able to get good bat on it. I think the wind was blowing out a little bit today, so that gave it a little more range to go.”
Right fielder Jonathan Pigott and catcher Buddy Munroe keyed yet another two-out scoring session. Pigott ripped as single to centerfield and took second on a wild pitch by Saints southpaw Mike Moberg. Munroe drove a ball that looked as though it would easily go through the gap. However, Siena shortstop Chris Klepps knocked it down with his glove, got up, and tried to make the throw to first. The ball sailed wide of the bag allowing Pigott to score for a 2-0 Florida advantage.
With one out in the fifth, Keating gave up a single to second baseman Don DiPetta. Two batters later catcher Phil Cahill doubled down the left field line. DiPetta had to hold up at third base. Keating battled back and forced Anthony Giansanti to stroke a ground ball to Figueroa at short for the final out of the frame and keep the scoreless streak intact.
Keating gave up a pair of singles to start the sixth inning. Kevin Willis flew out to Pigott in right field for the first out. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan went to his bullpen and called on left hander Tony Davis, who got right fielder Rick Seltzer to hit a ball down the first base line. McArthur fielded the ball and recorded the out at the bag. O’Sullivan once again went to the pen, this time calling on righthander Josh Edmondson, who needed only two pitches before pinch hitter Jason DiFilippo bounced a ball to short and was thrown out by Figueroa to end the threat.
Edmondson pitched 2.1 innings of no-hit, scoreless baseball. He used his new look three-quarter delivery to strikeout two Saints hitters and located his pitches very well. Closer Clint Franklin came on in the ninth and allowed a one out hit to Seltzer before closing out the contest.
O’Sullivan once again reiterated that the Gators strengths are found in their defensive play and offense. Once again the Gators got several outstanding defensive plays by shortstop Cole Figueroa and center fielder Josh Adams, who is playing his way into the Gators lineup. Matt den Dekker will return to center field when his suspension is over after the Siena series. However, expect Adams, who can play several positions, to play a significant role in the lineup.
“We’re just trying to stress what our strengths are and our strengths are that we’re going to be able to put the ball on the ground,” said O’Sullivan. “We’ve got a couple of guys who have really good sinkers and play good defense. We’re not a big strikeout group, so there’s going to be more balls put into play so we’ve got to play better defense. Cole (Figueroa) and Jon (Townsend) have done a real nice job, but they’re going to get a lot of action, especially from those sinkerballers.”
The Gators will face Siena (0-2) in the finale tomorrow at noon. Florida will throw freshman Tommy Toledo, who was an All-American at Tampa Alonso drafted in the third round by the San Diego Padres. He is one of the most highly regarded true freshmen in college baseball.