Bottom half shows up big in 8-4 win over FGCU

The No. 1 Florida Gators (2-0) were fueled by their seven, eight and nine hitters — who went a collective 7-10 with seven RBI and scored four runs — in an 8-4 win over Florida Gulf Coast University. Just don’t refer to them as “bottom of the order guys.”

“I don’t know if we like the term ‘down there’,” Larson replied to a question about the bottom of the order starting hot on opening weekend. “We like hitting and I think Deacon [Liput] swung the bat really well and so did [Jonathan] India. They’re freshmen but they don’t look like freshmen, that’s for sure.”

McKethan Stadium looked like a one traffic light, speed-trap town with more than 20 scouts wielding radar guns in attendance to see the potential first pick in the draft — A.J. Puk — make his first start of the season. Puk didn’t disappoint through two, holding FGCU scoreless on just 19 pitches.

The Eagles, however, got on the board first in the third inning. Puk made a throwing error to start the frame and it was quickly capitalized on when Ryan Shinn laced a single down the left field line to give the Eagles runners on the corners with no outs. Puk got Jake Noll to chop a ball to third, but freshman Jonathan India couldn’t handle it, giving FGCU a 1-0 lead. The Eagles went on to score four runs, all unearned to take a 4-2 lead.

Larson singled with one out in the bottom of the fourth and advanced to third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run by freshman Deacon Liput. Larson crossed the plate on an India sacrifice fly and the comeback was on.

Jeremy Vasquez doubled down the left field line and moved to third after another one-out hit by Larson, his third of a career-high four hits on Saturday night. Liput tripled both runners home just four pitches later and scored on an India groundout to give Florida a 6-4 advantage.

“It was a good game for us, we needed to kind of battle back a little bit,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “I don’t think I saw the four run third, I thought A.J. threw the ball very well.”

After Puk exited the game Brady Singer came in and held the Eagles at bay. Singer, a second round selection by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, worked three innings of scoreless relief, striking out three batters along the way to his first collegiate win.

“I felt good, everything felt good,” Singer said. “I pulled a slider a few times, but the fastball, the fastball felt good. I got the jitters out. It was all-around great teams win. We fell behind a little bit but came back, fought through and did it.”

Junior right-hander Frank Rubio debuted a new, sidearm delivery and worked a perfect ninth inning to close the game out.

Florida will go for an opening weekend sweep on Sunday afternoon at 1 pm.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC