In 1998 Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine told us “Chicks dig the long ball” and on Saturday night the (46-16) obliged in an 8-2 win over University of South Florida (34-25-1).
Buddy Reed started the Gators night off with their first hit of the ball game when he went down and golfed a fastball deep over the wall in right-center. The center fielder is better known for his speed and his glove and his third home run came as a surprise even to him.
“I just hit it and started running,” Reed said “It was just a low fastball inside. I just threw my hands at it and it went out.”
Those two runs would be all sophomore A.J. Puk would need. Puk gave up two hits in the first inning before settling down and working into a groove. Puk would allow just four hits over seven innings of work and retired the final 14 batters he faced. It another great start from Florida’s lefty who has been dominant in his last five outings for the Gators (30.1 IP, 17 H, 5 R (4 ER), 48 Ks, 1.19 ERA).
“It seems like when he gets in a rhythm everything is a strike and everything is at the knees,” Kevin O’Sullivan said of Puk after the game.
Harrison Bader added on to Florida’s lead in the third inning with his 14th home run of the season — a two run blast that left no doubt, getting out of the park quickly.
The Gators would continue to hit the ball well, Jeremy Vasquez went 2-5 on the night and is 5-8 in the regional. JJ Schwarz was 2-4 and is now 6-9 in the NCAA Tournament as well.
“We really just go into it as it’s just another game, that it’s not a postseason game,” Vasquez said. “It’s just a regular season game, we don’t put too much pressure on ourselves. We just go out there and have fun.”
Kirby Snead replaced Puk after he reached 108 pitches in the eighth inning. Snead gave up one run on three hits in the eighth inning but was able to strand two runners.
Richie Martin led off the ninth inning by getting hit with a pitch. It’s the fourth time Martin has been hit by a pitch in the regional. Josh Tobias walked before Schwarz struck out. Pete Alonso brought both Martin and Tobias home with a single into right-center and Alonso would later score in the ninth on an error to extend the lead to 8-1.
Snead pitched well but couldn’t miss bats. The sophomore gave up back-to-back singles in the bottom of the ninth before being lifted in favor of Taylor Lewis. The closer gave up one single and a run (charged to Snead) before a pop out to Reed ended the game.
The Gators have won their first two games and will face the winner of an elimination game between Florida Atlantic University and USF tomorrow. Florida is undefeated and will need to lose twice to be eliminated from regional play.
“It’s huge as a team,” Reed said of starting the regional 2-0. “With Puk’s great start and the offense and defense. We’re definitely looking forward to game three, whoever our opponent is.”
O’Sullivan is still mulling over who will start for the Florida Gators on Sunday but Alex Faedo, Bobby Poyner and Dane Dunning are all options.