Thunderstorms can’t cool off Gators

Thunderstorms couldn’t stop the Florida Gators Tuesday night and neither could the Campbell Camels. All that water couldn’t cool down Florida’s hot bats as the Gators scored in each of the first four innings as they racked up a 15-3 victory at McKethan Stadium.

After a long weekend in Miami against one of the top pitching staffs in the country, the Campbell pitching staff was just what the Gators needed to see. They fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first, but answered with two runs and that was just the start.

Matt den Dekker got his first career start on the mound for Florida and he gave up three hits, a walk and hit a batter but alert play by catcher Buddy Munroe got the Gators out of trouble. With runners on first and third, Campbell sent the runner to second but Munroe threw behind the runner at third, who broke for home. Jon Townsend returned the throw and Munroe applied the inning-ending tag.

The Gators wasted little time answering in their half of the inning, starting with a leadoff walk to Avery Barnes, who stole second and moved to third on a single by Matt den Dekker. A sacrifice fly by Cole Figueroa got the Gators on the board and moved den Dekker to third. After a Brandon McArthur walk, freshman Josh Adams brought den Dekker home with another sacrifice fly.

In the second inning, the Gators got back to back singles from Munroe and Barnes. With runners at first and third with one out, Campbell pitcher Hunter Ford faked a pick off to third base and threw to first where Barnes was caught leaning. Instead of throwing to second to catch Barnes, the Campbell first baseman tried to nail Munroe at third but Munroe dived in ahead of the throw, leaving runners on second and third. That came back to haunt the Camels as Figueroa doubled to center field, driving home two. Brandon McArthur followed with a triple to right field to increase the Florida lead to 5-3.

That was all the Gators needed because the Florida bullpen threw 6.1 innings of three-hit, shutout baseball. Senior Josh Edmondson pitched 4.1 innings, giving up two hits, two walks and struck out three while giving up no runs.

“Whenever we score 15 runs, it’s pretty easy to pitch,” Edmondson said. “I knew right when I got to the field that I was going to throw a lot tonight. We always expect to that a lot of innings.”

Two closing innings by lefty Tony Davis and righty sophomore Billy Bullock put the closing on a great day for the Florida bullpen.

“It was solid,” said Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan. “It didn’t get sloppy. We didn’t have a lot of leadoff walks or deep counts. There’s nothing more that irritates a coach than things getting sloppy after you get a lead. They kept their concentration.”

Offensively, Florida put the finishing touches on the game with a six-run explosion in the seventh. The inning started with a walk to Townsend, who is hitting just .185. After Teddy Foster was hit with a pitch, Clayton Pisani singled to load the bases. Barnes and den Dekker followed with back-to-back walks to bring home two runs and Figueroa drove home another with a sacrifice fly. That was followed by a McArthur double and an Adams single to drive home the final three runs.

Den Dekker, who finished the game as the designated hitter, will spend most of the season patrolling center field, his every day position but he will be available to throw some innings whenever O’ Sullivan needs him.

“It felt good, but I’ve got to throw my pitches for strikes,” den Dekker said. “We’ll work on a few things, and I’ll come out with better control. It was my first start, so I wasn’t really nervous, I was just trying to go out there and have a good performance. I just wanted to help the team out.”

With lefties Tony Davis and J.K. LaCoste coming out of the bullpen, head coach Kevin O’Sullivan is unsure how he will be using den Dekker the rest of the year.

“We really only have eleven healthy pitchers,” O’Sullivan said. “With the schedule we’re playing, he’s going to throw some innings for us. We felt that the easiest way to get him innings was starting him instead of running him in from center field. He got to about 50 pitches so we took him out.”

The first performance for the center fielder on the mound wasn’t up to O’Sullivan’s level of expectations, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see him on the mound anymore.

“It wasn’t great,” O’Sullivan said. “He didn’t have control of his secondary pitches and he fell behind an awful lot of hitters. Just to get him out there and get some mound experience is invaluable at this point.”

O’Sullivan said some changes will probably be made to this weekend’s pitching rotation.

GAME NOTES: Avery Barnes went 3-3 with two walks, a run batted in, and scored four run. He raised his average from .379 to .438 on Tuesday night… Jonathan Pigott went 1-4 to increase his hitting streak to 13 games… Clayton Pisani hit his first homerun since February of 2007… The Gators turned four double plays Tuesday.