Mike Rivera’s two-out shot sailed high into the night, clearing everything in left field to give the No. 1 Florida Gators baseball team (1-0) a 2-1 lead on their way to a 4-2 win over Florida Gulf Coast (0-1) in the 2016 season opener. Logan Shore earned his first win of the season in front of the largest crowd (5,778) to ever see an opening game at McKethan Stadium.
“It was incredible. I said it on the radio that this was the best since we’ve been here,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “It was awesome. Our players talked about it before the game and thought it was cool. It does really help our players.”
Logan Shore earned the start in what will likely be his final opening day start for the Gators. He started the game off with a strikeout before surrendering a base knock to right field. Shore cleaned up the hit with an inning-ending double play and worked another one-hit, scoreless inning in the second.
“I think he did really good, honestly. It’s his first outing, he had a crowd, I’m jacked as well, I had to calm down a little bit,” said Rivera. “He spotted and pitched his game, pitched to his strength.”
Pete Alonso collected the first Gator hit of the season, an infield single to short. Alonso advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a Jeremy Vasquez single. Rivera blasted a sacrifice fly into right field to give Florida a 1-0 lead. It was the first of three sacrifice flies on the night and showed how much No. 1 team in the country works on the little things.
“That’s huge, you know? We work on that in BP,” Vasquez said. “We have a round of sac flies and ‘move him over.’ I think that correlated to the game today.
Florida Gulf Coast made things interesting in the fourth, putting two runners on base and scoring on a botched double play attempt.
Rivera’s home run was a no doubter. A 3-2 fastball that he was sitting on, waiting for, “I cheated on that one,” he admitted. The ball left his bat and cleared everything in left field, bringing up memories of Harrison Bader’s hot start in 2015.
“I don’t go up to the plate trying to hit home runs, it’s not my thing,” Rivera said. “I just try to go up, square balls up and wherever they go they go.”
This is just game of 56, really, when you factor in the postseason, one of a potential 70 or so. The Gators played a good opponent in FGCU and they didn’t blow them out of the water. There are bigger and tougher opponents that they will see down the road but the Florida Gators, the nation’s No. 1 team, found a way to win on Friday night.
“All in all it was a good game,” said O’Sullivan. “There’s only one opening night each year and I’ll take a ‘W’ any way it comes to be honest with you.”