Justin Poovey picked up his first pitching victory since 2007 when he led South Caldwell to the North Carolina state championship Tuesday night. Florida’s redshirt freshman pitched four shutout innings as part of a pitching by committee shutout as the Gators improved to 4-0 with a 12-0 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles before a crowd of 2,163 at McKethan Stadium.
Poovey, a Top 100 player out of high school, missed all of the 2008 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Tuesday night, it felt like old times for the righthander.
“It felt really good,” Poovey said. “I just wanted to get out there and throw strikes. I pitched to contact and our defense played great. I was a little upset that I was coming out. I felt like I could have gone a little longer.”
Poovey allowed only two hits and a walk in his four inning stint, giving Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan a good idea of what he might expect this season.
“He had a really good, live fastball tonight,” said O’Sullivan, who became the first coach in Florida history to start back-to-back seasons 4-0. “He threw some good changeups and breaking balls. For being anxious and not being on the mound for almost two years now, he’s been looking forward to this. I’m awful proud of him.”
In Florida’s first three games, the starting pitchers were on a pitch count of 75 but O’Sullivan pulled that back to 50-60 for Poovey. O’Sullivan wanted to ease Poovey into pitching again while saving him in case he’s needed for some spot duty this weekend against Miami.
“I thought in the fourth he kind of ran out of gas a little bit,” O’Sullivan said. “Emotionally more than anything, this start is something he’s been looking forward to. We can use him Saturday now instead of having to hold him until Sunday.”
After Poovey, the Gators threw four pitchers to finish off the Eagles. Freshman Will Jolin threw two innings, only allowing one base runner on a walk. Junior Tony Davis threw his first inning after only facing one batter last weekend. Junior Chas Spottswood pitched the eighth inning, making his first appearance since May 20, 2006 against LSU. Spottswood threw only four pitches in the inning, giving up a one-out hit and getting a double play on the next pitch. Greg Larson, Florida’s tall, 6-8 freshman, closed the game with his mid-90 velocity. The biggest key for the Florida coaches was to continue getting new pitchers into the game.
It wasn’t all about pitching, however.
The Gators continued their early season trend of scoring early. Avery Barnes led off the first inning with a single up the middle and Matt den Dekker followed with a walk. After Josh Adams struck out, Brandon McArthur hit his third extra base hit of the season into the right-center field gap, a 2-RBI double.
“We came out swinging the bat real well tonight,” Barnes said. “It’s a lot of fun [to set the table for this defense]. As a leadoff hitter that’s my job. I give those guys as many opportunities as I can. They’re doing a great job right now.”
Clayton Pisani led off the fourth inning with a four-pitch walk and Riley Cooper extended his hitting streak to seven games dating back to last season with a single. Hampton Tignor lined an 0-2 pitch into left field to load the bases for Sunday’s hero Mike Mooney, who doubled down the right field line to score two runs and put the Gators ahead 4-0. Barnes followed that with a two-run triple into the left-center field gap, and came home on a den Dekker sacrifice fly.
Adams kept the inning going with a double down the right field line. One out later, Daniel Pigott pinch, doubling to right field for his first career hit and RBI. Pisani followed with a two-out single to right field to score Pigott, increasing Florida’s lead to 9-0 through four.
“I just went up there and did what the coaches have been working with me on,” explained Pigott.
Florida struck for three more runs in the sixth, getting an Adams lead off single to start the inning. Jerico Weitzel followed with his first collegiate hit, nailing a hanging curve ball to right field for a single. Pigott got his second hit, a single to right field that scored Adams. Pisani followed with the fourth straight single on a line drive to left field, to drive home Weitzel. Ben McMahan’s high fly to second resulted in an error to bring home the final run of the game.
“Up and down the lineup there were five guys that had two hits or more,” said O’Sullivan, who played 19 players. “It was a great effort by everybody. Our offense starts with Avery Barnes. He’s dangerous. When he goes, we go. Josh (Adams) swung the bat real well. You’re going to need 1-9 to swing the bat well if you want to be as good as you can offensively.”
The Gators host Eastern Michigan Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Freshman righthander Anthony DeSclafani is scheduled to pitch.