It was a battle of freshmen. Florida sent out Brett Morales, while Maryland trotted out freshman Mike Shawaryn. While Morales looked the part of a freshman, getting touched up early, Shawaryn looked like a grizzled veteran out on the mound, holding a shutout into the sixth inning and earning his first collegiate win in a 9-7 victory.
Coming off of a 4-0 shutout loss on Friday night, Shawaryn and the Terrapins came out of the gates hot, scoring two runs in the top of the first on two hits. They extended their lead in the second inning.
Anthony Papio led off the inning with a double and was moved over to third after a sacrifice bunt. Andrew Amaro — who went 2-4 on the night — laced a ball back up the middle for his only RBI of the night. It took the Terrapins just two innings to surpass their hit total from the night before.
Maryland would continue to pour on the runs, scoring two more in the fourth and another in the fifth before the Gators could muster up an answer.
While it may have taken five innings, the Gator did fight back from the early 6-0 deficit.
Richie Martin and Ryan Larson both lined out to put Florida in a two-out hole
“I felt like they had some walks and they let up a little bit because they thought the inning was over,” junior catcher Taylor Gushue said. “I felt like we had really good at-bats. We knew that we were running out of outs.”
The inning was far from over, in fact, it was just getting started. Casey Turgeon walked and Gushue singled to left, running Shawaryn out of the game. Pete Alonso pinch hit for Zack Powers and was plunked in his first plate appearance, loading the bases. Turgeon was able to score on a wild pitch and Gushue touched home after an error by Jose Curas. Just like that, the Gators scored two runs with just one hit. Transfer Braden Mattson pinch hit for A.J. Puk and knocked in a run in his first at bat as a Gator.
However, Maryland would answer with a run of their own in the top of the seventh. Florida would score in their half of the seventh but Maryland answered in the eighth and again in the ninth after Florida had drawn the lead to just a single run.
The early hole that the Gators dug for themselves proved to be too much to overcome.
“I would say we just came out of the gates slow. I don’t think we swung the bats aggressively the first five innings. It’s just kind of difficult when you don’t come out of the gates and be aggressive in the first part of the game.”
Taking a positive from the loss
Maryland was able to square the series at a game apiece but a young Gator team never held their heads and certainly didn’t give up.
“I think even though we came out on the losing end of the game I think that it was good because we got a lot of our freshmen in there,” Gushue said. “Just to get them a little bit exposed to the competition level, so that wasn’t a total loss.”
Even though Florida came out victorious on Friday night, they didn’t swing the bats particularly well and struck out seven times. For the first five innings the bats lay formant in the dugout before waking up in the sixth inning. Kevin O’Sullivan was impressed with the way his team hung around and how they were able to start hitting as the game went on.
“I was just excited that we swung the bats better,” O’Sullivan said. “We kind of, almost a game and a half where we didn’t do a whole lot offensively but then we kind of got into a grove there. I think our timing improved and it was good to see us get our swings going.”
O’Sullivan was also able to get several freshmen into the game today and earn them valuable experience that he hopes will aid them the rest of the season.
“I think it will help us down the road. That experience that Ryan [Larson] had there in the eighth will help him. Dane Dunning getting, even if it’s just two outs, it helps him. It’s good to get A.J. Puk out there. Brett [Morales] will be better,” O’Sullivan said. “He got the start today because he’s been throwing the ball really good. He’s obviously better than what he did today. It’s probably first start nerves and I expect him to be much better next time.”
Freshmen outfielder Buddy Reed recorded his first hit today, a bloop single that pushed in a run, but the freshmen didn’t want to talk about personal achievements after the first loss of his collegiate career.
“I’m really disappointed about the loss,” he said. “Not really [thinking] about the single, I’m glad it happened but the loss is worse, so I’m not really focused on [the hit and RBI] that much.”
Winning the series
With Florida and Maryland splitting the first two games, Sunday turns into a rubber match with the winner taking the opening series of the season.
Losing the opening series isn’t a feeling that Gushue and the Gators want to experience.
“I know that it’s super important to me,” Gushue said. “You don’t come out and think you’re going to lose the first series; it’s not a good feeling.”
Quote of the Night
Freshman LHP/1B A.J. Puk earned his first at bat as well as got his first pitching experience on Saturday night. When asked which he was more nervous about, hitting or pitching, Puk had this to say.
I’m probably more nervous doing this [speaking with the media] right now than I was playing the game.”