After scoring a total of seven runs in its first two games, the Florida baseball team exploded on Sunday, crossing the plate 16 times en route to a 16-5 victory over Duke to clinch the series.
After giving up two runs in the top of the first, the Gators managed to tie the score after Taylor Gushue doubled to right field, bringing home base runners Richie Martin and Justin Shafer.
After giving up a fourth inning run to the Blue Devils, Florida would wait until the sixth inning to begin their assault on the scoreboard.
After starting the sixth with a trio of singles from Casey Turgeon, Shafer and Vickash Ramjit, Zack Powers stepped to the plate with an opportunity to do damage. Powers would only manage to hit a sacrifice fly to center field, bringing Turgeon home, but with the score tied, the Gators were able to confidently swing their bats.
Following Powers’ at-bat, Josh Tobias hit a hard single to left center field, scoring both Shafer and Ramjit, and putting the Gators up for good. Tobias would eventually score after a Cody Dent single, but even though that was all the Gators would get in the sixth inning, their scoring party was just getting started.
In the seventh inning, with Turgeon, Kevin Stypulkowski and Ramjit all on base, Powers again stepped to the plate with an opportunity to inflict major pain on the Blue Devils.
This time, he took full advantage.
After a Duke pitching change which brought Ryan Munger in for the excellently named Kenny Koplove, Powers promptly welcomed Munger to the game by hitting a grand slam over the right field wall.
With the Gators’ lead standing at 10-5 entering the bottom of the eighth, no one could have blamed Florida for wanting to coast to the top of the ninth.
However, the Gators’ offense had other ideas as Florida would put up their biggest inning of the series.
After two runs early in their at-bat, with Turgeon, Stypulkowski and Cory Reid all on board, again, Powers stepped to the plate with a major opportunity.
And again, he delivered.
As the ball traveled through the chilly afternoon air and again over the right field fence, Powers, with his second grand slam of the day, immediately became the new power bat in the Florida lineup; A key ingredient which was thought to be the one missing link for the Gators this season.
For Powers, the day was a special one considering he was forced to sit-out the 2012 season due to a shoulder injury.
“It’s great to have a good game like this, but it’s greater to be back playing,” Powers said. “To have a game like this is really special.”
With the score at 16-5, the game was all but over when Eric Hanhold came in to close the game for the Gators.
Florida used six pitchers on the afternoon, with none getting more than 2.2 innings of work, including starter Justin Shafer.
Sophomore Ryan Harris would earn the win for Florida, pitching 2.2 scoreless innings and giving up only one hit through nine batters.
After a bitter opening, the Gators now head to Orlando on Tuesday for a game against UCF — with a major boost in the confidence department.
“It was really great to see our bats come alive there in the sixth inning,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We had some really, really good at-bats there. “As a team, we probably needed that sixth inning as much as anybody. The bottom line is, if you put it in play, you’ve got a chance. We hit some balls hard this weekend and obviously Zack [Powers] had a great day.”