By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com baseball writer
No. 4 Florida Gators baseball wiped the floor with the Florida A&M Rattlers on Friday, using a 19-0 win to propel itself into the winner’s bracket of the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
Florida took a 1-0 lead in the second inning and never looked back with sophomore right-handed pitcher Logan Shore on the mound. Shore has been the victim of a lack of run support at times in the 2015 campaign, but the UF bats were plenty active Friday night at McKethan Stadium.
Eleven different Gators hitters recorded an RBI in Florida’s first NCAA Tournament win since June 10, 2012, snapping a six-game losing streak dating back to the 2012 College World Series.
Here are three takeaways from Florida’s blowout victory:
1. Shore serves his purpose: Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan might have raised some eyebrows by deciding to start his ace, Shore, against No. 231 RPI Florida A&M rather than saving the No. 1 pitcher for a winner’s bracket game. Shore entered the regional coming off three consecutive quality starts and maintained that consistency Friday night (5.0 IP, 2 H, BB, 2K). By keeping walks and mistakes to a minimum, Shore didn’t give FAMU any easy runs and thus did not allow any early momentum to shake UF’s confidence. Shore threw only 58 pitches and could be made available if Florida is forced into an elimination game on Monday.
2. No freshman jitters: UF’s three rookie starters showed no signs of being overwhelmed by their first NCAA Tournament. Freshman JJ Schwarz (4/5, 5 RBI, 3 R) led the Gators’ offensive output as the designated hitter. Freshman catcher Mike Rivera (0/1,2 RBI) chipped in at the plate before leaving the game after being hit in his left kneecap by a pitch. Rivera lobbied to stay in the game and will likely return Saturday. Also battling injury, freshman second baseman Dalton Guthrie (1/3, RBI) was moved to the No. 9 spot in the batting order to ensure minimal at-bats while still recovering from a sprained wrist.
3. Making them pay: Florida capitalized on multiple Florida A&M mistakes in its five-run third inning. FAMU starter Ricky Page issued a leadoff walk to sophomore center fielder Buddy Reed (1/4, RBI, R), and it was all downhill from there for the Rattlers. The Gators hit into three fielder’s choice plays that resulted in only one out.
Up next: Sophomore left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk (8-3, 4.23 ERA) will take the mound for Florida on Saturday night at 7 p.m. against South Florida in the winner’s bracket game. USF earned a 5-3 win over Florida Atlantic on Friday. The Gators defeated the Bulls twice in the regular season (13-3 in Tampa, 5-1 in Gainesville) and will look to do it again live on the SEC Network.