It was a beautiful night for baseball with clear skies and the temperature sitting at 65 degrees. It’s a far cry from Coon Rapids, Minnesota where today’s high was 39 degrees and snow is forecasted for later in the week.
“I had my first start in 31-degree weather,” freshman RHP Logan Shore said after making his debut on Tuesday night for the Gators. “It’s a little different coming down here.”
The weather may be different, but Shore treated this start like he was back in high school, mowing down hitters and playing up to the potential of one of the most highly recruited pitchers in the 2013 recruiting class.
Shore toed the rubber for 5.1 innings, gave up one run and three hits, while striking out four batters.
“Really, really good,” O’Sullivan said of his rookie’s first outing. “It’s about as impressive an outing for a freshman that you’ll probably see.”
But is it?
It wasn’t too long ago that Sully watched almost an identical situation play out. After a sweep of USF, the Gators played host to — you guessed it — UCF. O’Sullivan trotted out a red-haired freshman that night to take on the Knights.
Gator fans didn’t know the name Hudson Randall at that time — much like the name Logan Shore sounds unfamiliar to even the most hardcore fan — but it didn’t take long to get to know the name.
Randall took the mound for that first start and threw five scoreless innings of three hit baseball, while striking out three and walking one.
“Hudson Randall’s first year, he didn’t start on a weekend, he got his first start in a midweek game against Central Florida,” O’Sullivan recalled after the game on Tuesday. “He threw five scoreless and, obviously, the rest is history.”
The similarities are uncanny. An out-of-state right-handed pitcher takes the mound in the first game following the opening weekend series. He overcomes the nerves of making his collegiate debut and throws a gem.
While most fans were pleasantly surprised with the performance, O’Sullivan doesn’t fall into the crowd of people who are surprised with Shore’s opening act as a Gator.
“I’m not going to say that I knew he was going to pitch this well but it’s not surprising. There’s a reason why he was recruited so heavily by so many people,” he said. “We don’t go out of state often, we’re certainly not going to go to Coon Rapids, Minnesota for a right-hander but there’s something special about him.”
Speaking with the media after the game, Shore was calm, spoke clearly and was confident. He didn’t look like a wide-eyed freshman at a big university who was in over his head. He looked like someone who belonged and knew that he belonged. Despite a great start, Shore wasn’t completely pleased with his outing.
“I gave up that first hit and just tried to keep throwing strikes. Sully preaches first pitch strikes and throwing two out of three strikes. I just tried to stay within myself and tried not to do too much,” he said. “There’s a couple pitches I wish I could have had back but, you know, I think it’s a pretty solid first outing and I’d like to build off it.”
Randall went on to have an incredible career with the Gators with a 28-10 record, 2.62 ERA, more than 315 innings pitched and 204 strikeouts before being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the seventh round of the 2012 Rule 5 Amateur Draft.
Coming back down to earth, it’s too soon to go around heaving expectations onto the shoulders of an 18-year old freshman. He’s good, sure, and tonight — on the biggest stage that he has ever pitched on — he was great.
To make the appearance even more special, Shore was able to make the start in front of his parents. Shore’s family flew in for opening weekend but with snow on the horizon back home and a chance to see their son play on Tuesday, they delayed their return flight.
He has a long career ahead of him but he impressed not only his head coach and the fans, but his teammates as well.
“It was unbelievable. Every single thing that I asked him to do, he did. He was perfect for us,” Taylor Gushue said. “It saved our bullpen for tomorrow against UNF, they always come here with their bats really hot. It was a great day and Shore did an awesome job.”
It’s the first of what will be many starts but there isn’t a much better way to get your career kicked off.
“It felt really good. I got a great group of guys,” Shore said. “I couldn’t really ask for a better team to play behind me. I’m looking forward to it, hoping we can keep it going.”