By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor
No. 12 Florida Gators baseball ended a rough week on a high note by sweeping its third-straight Southeastern Conference home series.
It looked like any momentum Florida had from last week’s sweep of Georgia had faded when UF dropped back-to-back mid-week home games to the Jacksonville Dolphins (3-1) and Florida A&M Rattlers (4-3).
The Gators (30-15, 15-6 SEC) managed to turn things around over the weekend against the Missouri Tigers (19-24, 6-15 SEC), complementing standout performances on the mound with terrific run support at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL.
A pair of rookies carried Florida to a 7-1 win over Missouri in Friday’s series opener.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (7.1 IP, 5 H, ER, 5 K) kept the Tigers off the board for seven full innings in a strong outing. He has now managed to go at least five innings in all 10 starts this season. Helping Shore at the plate was classmate and designated hitter Peter Alonso (3/4), who matched a career-high with five RBIs.
Shore’s stellar outing was not the Gators top pitching performance of the weekend. Sophomore RHP Aaron Rhodes (9.0 IP, H, 2 BB, 6 K) outshined his teammate and UF’s budding ace with a complete-game one-hit shutout in only his third start of the season.
The reliever-turned-starter got plenty of run support with junior second baseman Casey Turgeon (2/4, 2 RBI) helping send the Gators to the 5-0 victory and series win.
“I thought [Rhodes] got better as the game went on,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said after the game. “I thought the ninth inning was as good of an inning as he threw all day. I’m really proud of the way he threw the ball.”
Down but not yet completely out, Mizzou refused to go quietly in the series finale.
Florida jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning but quickly fell behind 3-2 in the second. The Gators managed to knot things up with the Tigers twice, forcing extra innings as they hoped to pull away with the sweep.
It was junior first baseman Zack Powers (2/5, R) who stepped up for UF in the 10th, managing a two-out single to center field and subsequently stealing second base to put himself in scoring position.
After freshman DH A.J. Puk (1/2) was intentionally walked, freshman left fielder Ryan Larson (2/2, RBI) came through in the clutch for his team with a single to center that scored Powers for the walk-off 6-5 victory.
Florida now holds a two-game advantage on Alabama (29-15, 13-8 SEC) for the top spot in the conference standings. UF and UA will square off next weekend in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in a three-game series that could help decide the league’s regular-season champion. (Due to final exams, the Gators will not play any midweek games.)