Walks, errors, missed opportunities and a four hour running time made the Florida Gators’ 2019 season opener an interesting one, but for the sixth season in a row Florida opened the year 1-0.
The Gators used a pair of four-run innings to take down the Long Beach State Dirtbags 8-2 in front of 4,581 at McKethan Stadium.
“It was a weir night,” Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We dropped two balls on the corner, which we haven’t done. We had some miscommunication between the pitcher and the catcher with Tyler and Brady. We had nine walks and two hit batters which is pretty uncharacteristic of us.”
Tyler Dyson drew the start for the Gators. He took the place of Brady Singer, who replaced Faedo and Logan Shore, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch. It’s an illustrious list of pitchers that have toed the rubber on Friday nights at McKethan stadium and Dyson was tasked with trying to live up to the standard they set.
His night started with a four-pitch walk, stolen base and a wild pitch. Not ideal but a strikeout and a double play would get him out of the inning and put bats in his teammates hands.
Florida came out of the gates swinging. Sophomore Brady McConnell singled with one out and moved to second when Nelson Maldonado walked. Wil Dalton singled up the middle to score both runners and stole second. Freshman Kendrick Calilao walked and both runners scored when Brady Smith laced a ball back up the middle to give Florida a 4-0 advantage.
With a 4-0 cushion Dyson could calm down and he did, working around a one out double to put another zero on the board. The third inning was stressful with Long Beach State putting two runners in scoring position but Dyson again navigated it. The fourth inning would do him in.
Dyson walked the leadoff batter for the third time in four innings. One more wild pitch and a walk and his night was done after just 3.1 innings and 72 pitches. Jordan Butler came in to get Florida out of the inning but he would give up two runs on a passed ball and a wild pitch.
“He’s been throwing the ball well all postseason, maybe it’s first night stuff,” O’sullivan said of Dyson. “He looked like he was fluctuating back and forth. His release point was a little off and he was trying to fight himself a little bit to get back in the groove.”
Florida would tack on four runs in the seventh inning thanks to a three-run error. The Gators got good outings from sophomore Justin Alintoff and freshman Ben Specht and as a staff they only gave up four hits on the night.
The biggest takeaway from the game was just that this didn’t look like the Florida we’ve come to see. Not the hitting but the fielding and the walks. Hitting is hard and teams will go through ups and downs. The one consistent thing every O’Sullivan ballclub does is throwing strikes and play solid defense. They didn’t do that but it’s only one game of 56. There’s a long way to go but O’Sullivan made sure to let his team know that the result on Friday night might not happen all season based on how they played.
“I don’t want to judge where we’re at on one game. I go on the improvements we made in the fall and into the spring. The fact of the matter is we do have a new roster — 15 new players and there’s going to be a learning curve,” O’Sullivan said. “I hope it’s a lesson to them that we were fortunate to win tonight.”