By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer
Florida Gators baseball (10-1) went a perfect 4-0 on the week, sweeping the Florida Atlantic Owls and Stony Brook Seawolves by a combined score of 31-13 as head coach Kevin O’Sullivan notched the 300th win of his career on Friday night.
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore’s stellar outing on Friday night was the first of three quality starts from the Gators’ rotation in the series against the Seawolves, and opposing pitchers struggled to retire senior third baseman Josh Tobias as he tied a school record with eight consecutive hits over the weekend.
Sophomore RHP Brett Morales (2.2 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, BB, K) was hit hard by FAU in his second start of the season, but Florida still managed to prevail 10-8 on Tuesday in Jupiter, Florida. The Owls jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before Gators junior shortstop Richie Martin (3/4, 2 RBI, 3 R, SB) pushed his team ahead with a run-scoring single in the fourth. Two innings later, Martin and freshman catcher JJ Schwarz (2/4, 3 RBI, BB) extended UF’s lead to 7-3 with a pair of RBI singles. FAU capitalized on two errors, answering with four runs in the bottom half of the frame to knot things up at 7-7.
Florida used small ball to go up 10-7 in the eighth, putting redshirt sophomore RHP Mike Vinson (1.0 IP, BB) in position to get the win. Junior RHP Taylor Lewis (2.0 IP, 3 H, R, BB, 2 K) tossed the eighth and ninth for a six-out save, allowing an unearned run.
As a long time pitching coach, O’Sullivan surely appreciated that his milestone victory came in a 1-0 decision on Friday. Shore (2-0, 6.1 IP, H, 3 BB, 3 K) and senior left-handed hurler Bobby Poyner (2.2 IP, 2 H, 2 K) combined for the three-hit shutout effort. Shore, who exited last week’s start in the first inning due to a hip pointer, looked healthy in his return. Junior left fielder Harrison Bader (3/4, R) scored the game’s only run when Schwarz (1/3, RBI) doubled down the left field line in the bottom of the sixth. Poyner collected an eight-out save, his first of the season, to insure the 1-0 victory.
Sophomore LHP A.J. Puk (2-1, 6.2 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) delivered his best start of the season in Florida’s 14-3 series-clinching victory over Stony Brook. SBU jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but UF answered with five runs in its first trip to the plate. Puk settled down and cruised the rest of the way, exiting the game into the seventh inning when his pitch count reached 85. Tobias (5/5, 3 RBI, R) led the offensive onslaught with a career-high five hits. Sophomore center fielder Buddy Reid (1/4, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R, BB) hit his first career moon shot, a two-run dinger. Bader (2/3, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB, SB) added his team-leading sixth homer to the hit parade as Florida ended the contest with 14 unanswered runs.
Hot hitting from Tobias carried over into Sunday and helped the Gators secure a 6-2 victory for the series sweep. Tobias (2/4, HR, RBI, 2 R) tripled to lead off the bottom of the second and crossed the plate on a two-run homer by sophomore first baseman John Sternagel (1/4, HR, 2 RBI, R). In the third, Tobias hit a solo home run to put UF up 3-0, registering his school-record eight-straight hit in as many at bats. The streak ended when Tobias flied out in the fifth inning. Sophomore RHP Dane Dunning (6.2 IP, 3 H, BB, 4 K) capped off a stellar weekend for Florida’s starting rotation with a scoreless outing. Lewis (1.2 IP, 3 H, ER, K) notched his third save of the season.
Schwarz earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors, making it three-straight weeks that a Gators player has been honored with a weekly award. Florida baseball jumped to No. 2 nationally with three first-place votes in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll.
UF will square off with No. 14 UCF in a two-game home-and-home series. Florida will play in Orlando on Tuesday and at home at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville on Wednesday. The Gators will then play their last non-conference home weekend series beginning on Friday against Maine.