Pitching has fueled the Gators through the early portion of the season but it was the bats that showed up on Wednesday night. The Florida Gators (11-6) used a seven run eighth inning to take down the Redbirds of Illinois State 13-5 and extend their winning streak to five games.
UF got on the board first in the bottom half of the third inning when Josh Tobias led things off with a double down the left field line. Buddy Reed moved him over with a sacrifice bunt, bringing up the top of the order for the Gators. Tobias would score on a passed ball one pitch before Richie Martin would keep things going by smoking a ball back up the middle for a single. Casey Turgeon was hit by a pitch before he and Martin executed a double steal to put two runners in scoring position for. Taylor Gushue doubled down the right field line to plate both runners and just like that, freshman pitcher Brett Morales had a comfortable three-run lead to play with.
The Redbirds would add a run in the fifth but the Gators responded with three more runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning. The Gators three-run fifth was powered by Braden Mattson’s first career home run in orange and blue and the first home run the Gators have seen off of a bat that wasn’t swung by Gushue.
“That one was good,” Mattson said. “Thank god it was windy.”
With a comfortable 6-1 lead, the Gators were cruising and victory looked to be an afterthought. However, the Redbirds stormed back in the eighth.
Paul DeJong led the inning off with a walk, which was followed up by a pair of singles from Mike Hollenbeck and Joe Kelch to load the bases. O’Sullivan brought in freshman lefty Kirby Snead — who has been steady all season long — but Snead surrendered an RBI single to the only batter he would face. Ryan Harris came in with the bases still loaded and no outs, walking the first batter he faced to cut the Gators lead to 6-3. Harris would earn a strikeout before giving up a base hit and striking out his second batter of the inning. Bobby Poyner then replaced Harris with the bases still juiced and two away. Daniel Dwyer earned an infield single, cutting the Gatos seemingly insurmountable lead to just a run. Poyner would get the next batter he faced and it was Florida’s turn to bat in the eighth.
Rather than folding, Florida responded. Gushue led things off with a ground rule double and Mattson’s bunt single gave the Gators men on the corners and no outs. Zack Powers bunted — scoring Gushue and moving Mattson to second — and was able to beat the throw at first for a single. Justin Shafer’s sacrifice bunt moved Powers and Mattson into scoring position. Josh Tobias was intentionally walked.
Mike Fahrman pinch hit for Buddy Reed — his second appearance of the season — and earned an RBI walk. Martin hit an infield single to plate another run and set up Turgeon with the bases loaded.
Turgeon then took an 0-2 offering and blasted a ball high and deep into right field. Logan Leverett tracked the ball back to the warning track and to the wall where he leaped, almost getting his glove on the ball over the wall. Turgeon’s grand slam was Florida’s second homerun of the night — matching the number of homeruns the team entered the game with — and was the exclamation point to a seven-run bottom of the eighth.
“Casey’s grand slam there really gave us a lift and helped separate the score,” O’Sullivan said. “I was pleased with how we swung the bats.”
Eric Hanhold put the Redbirds down in order in the ninth inning and the Gators extended their winning streak to five games with the SEC schedule and Arkansas staring them down this Friday.
Shore gets the Friday start
After the game Kevin O’Sullivan announced that the weekend rotation would not be finalized until tomorrow but that freshman RHP Logan Shore would get the ball Friday night.
Shore is 0-1 on the season but sports a 0.45 ERA having given up just one run in his first 20 innings. Shore has three starts in four appearances this season, giving up 13 hits and two walks to 16 strikeouts.