The importance of two-out hits is something No. 20 Florida (3-1) head coach Kevin O’Sullivan says he preaches to his team. In their first midweek contest of the season, his team practiced what has been preached to them, all the way to the tune of a 5-1 victory over the UCF Knights (3-1).
There is a common theme surrounding all five of those runs Florida plated Tuesday night, they all came with two outs. The first one came in the opening frame when catcher Taylor Gushue hit UF’s first home run of the season, a line shot to right field that snuck right between the outfield wall padding and the bottom of the scoreboard.
“Two out hits, it’s what breaks teams backs and we did a really good job of that today,” Gushue said. “Good job by us but we need to keep doing it.”
After he put Florida on the board the Gator bats were quiet; perhaps all they needed was the seventh inning stretch, because after “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was belted by the 2,994 in attendance, UF’s bats erupted yet again under the pressure of two outs.
After a walk of Gushue, the bases were loaded with second baseman Casey Turgeon on second and shortstop Richie Martin on third. UCF pitcher Jay Marotta walked in Florida’s second run on four straight offerings and then right fielder Braden Mattson singled to right field off of new UCF pitcher Trent Thompson.
“We knew [Thompson] was gonna come in and try to throw some off speed stuff and [Mattison] did a great job of putting the bat on the ball and putting it in the gap so we could score a couple runs,” Gushue said. “Unbelievable job and it was a good piece of hitting.”
After another walk (this time of A.J. Puk ) and an RBI single by left fielder Justin Shafer (Shafer’s first hit of the season) Florida’s four total runs in the seventh match their high in a single inning for this young season.
It wasn’t just a good night at the plate however, freshman pitcher Logan Shore made his career debut with an impressive outing of 5.1 innings pitched with just three hits allowed, one earned run and four strikeouts. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan didn’t appear wowed by the performance he saw coming.
“I’m not gonna say I knew he was gonna pitch this well tonight but it’s not surprising,” O’Sullivan said. “we don’t go out of state often and certainly not gonna go to Coon Rapids, Minnesota for a right-hander, but there’s special about him.”
He raved about his maturity, his competitiveness and also his talent. The nature of the Knights’ lineup also presented a unique challenge because it was a veteran group of hitters that lined up at the dish to face Shore. Out of the starting nine batters, seven were juniors, and one was a senior. O’Sullivan estimated they had all seen around 300 at-bats in their college careers individually, making Shore’s night even more impressive.
When it was over though, the most impressive thing about the evening was that the Gators came alive in a big spot with timely hitting to deliver a victory, something the team as a whole struggled to do in 2013.