Two unlikely stars emerged from the Florida Gators bench this past weekend in Hoover, Alabama. Those stars were left-handed pitcher Scott Moss, and outfielder, Danny Reyes. Both players made statements in the SEC Tournament and are weapons for the Gators moving forward into post-season.
Moss had a rough start to his college career, having to undergo Tommy John surgery in March of his freshman year at Florida. He was redshirted and saw no time on the mound for the Gators in his redshirt freshman year. In regard to Moss’ playing time last season, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said, “We made a decision as a staff to kind of take it slow with him and not rush him back last year.”
After patiently waiting for his time to come for two seasons, Moss finally made his first career appearance for the final inning against Florida Gulf Coast. He went on to make his first start two games later, in a mid-week game against Eastern Michigan. His role as a pitcher changed several times throughout his twelve appearances, going from reliever, to mid-week starter, to lefty vs. lefty matchup guy, and back to mid-week starter again. No mid-week start could’ve possibly prepared him for the most important start of his career Saturday night against LSU in the conference semi-final.
With SEC Pitcher of the Year, Logan Shore, out for the Gators with a stomach bug, someone was going to have to step up and have a game on the mound. O’Sullivan made the decision that Scott Moss would have to be that guy.
Moss had a dominating performance in his third win of the season Saturday night with a career high six scoreless innings on the mound for the Gators. He was consistently throwing 92mph fastballs on the black of the plate from the left side, mixing in a nasty breaking ball and a work-in-progress changeup. With Moss’ deceptive motion, LSU batters, especially left-handed hitters, struggled to pick the ball up and hit a lot of ground balls off of their hands.
The top of the third inning, which started with a leadoff double down the left field line from LSU’s Michael Papierski and a bunt single from Cole Freeman, was the only real scoring threat by the Tigers during Moss’ outing. Moss got out of the inning with a little help from the Gators top-ranked fielding defense. The real key to Moss’ success in the game was getting ahead in the count, throwing 17-of-21 first pitch strikes. There was no hope for left-handed batters against Moss. Lefty hitters were 0-10, with only one reaching base on a rare Deacon Liput error.
Moss proved to be a pitcher that will add even more depth to Florida’s already steep pitching staff going into the national tournament.
Freshman outfielder, Danny Reyes, also made a name for himself in the SEC Tournament. In game two, Reyes got the call to play left field for the Gators, and just might have earned himself a full-time starting position in Florida’s lineup for the remainder of the season.
Coming into the tournament, Reyes had only made two starts for Florida. He also only had two hits on the season. The freshman from Miami quadrupled his hit total by adding six more to it in Hoover. Not to mention, three of his six hits were for extra bases and nearly all of his hits came in clutch situations.
In his first start of the tournament, Reyes hit a double down the left field line in the sixth inning. He went on to scorch another double to left center in his very next at bat in the eighth, this time scoring Mike Rivera for the go-ahead and eventual game-deciding fifth run for Florida. Following the game, O’Sullivan stated, “Maybe Danny’s the shot in the arm that we needed offensively, so we’ll see.”
The win put Florida in a position to take on Mississippi State in a blowout win by the Gators. Reyes had two hits and two RBI’s in the Gators 12-2 performance.
After winning the pitching battle on Saturday against LSU, Florida was in the SEC Tournament Championship game for the twelfth time in program history, facing a hot Texas A&M team. With India at second base with one out in the sixth inning of a 3-3 ballgame, Reyes hit a line drive shot to centerfield to put the Gators ahead 4-3. He was driven in to score the fifth run of the game for Florida. Then the Aggie bats went off and the nightmare bottom of the seventh and eighth happened.
Along with Reyes’ outstanding performance at the plate this weekend, he proved to be a steady defensive player in the outfield by making all of the routine plays. He made an impressive leaping catch at the fence in the Texas A&M game to steal a double off the top of the fence, or possibly even a homerun from the Aggies.
Both players came into the tournament with little experience and even less expectations. They left as known commodities and with far bigger, more important roles than even they would have imagined being in before the SEC Tournament started.