The truth is that the Manhattan Jaspers never had much of a chance on Friday, squaring off against No. 2 Florida Gators baseball in the second game of the Gainesville Regional at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Florida (46-16) scored five runs in the first inning, four in the second and seven in the third to demolish Manhattan (34-18) 17-3 in the late afternoon game and advance to the winner’s bracket.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson (8-0) got the call Friday and delivered in spades, striking out three and only allowing two hits in 3.1 innings. He was pulled early simply because of the advantage UF held after three innings.
The Gators’ offense supported him early and often, posting a five-spot in the bottom of the first inning to kick things off. Sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (2-6, RBI, R) led off the inning with a single and was moved over to second when senior center fielder Bryson Smith (2-4, 2 RBI, 3 R) was hit by a pitch; junior right fielder Preston Tucker singled home Fontana and sophomore catcher Mike Zunino plated Smith.
An infield single and subsequent error gave junior left fielder Tyler Thompson a spot on second and scored both Tucker and Zunino; Thompson (4-4, RBI, 3 R, BB) crossed the plate shortly after when junior designated hitter Daniel Pigott smacked a single to left.
Florida added four more runs the next inning, beginning with three via back-to-back home runs. Tucker launched a two-run shot to right-center, and Zunino (3-4, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R) followed him by hitting his ball to almost the exact same spot. Pigott (4-5, 3 RBI, R) earned another RBI a few batters later, singling to right field and sending senior second baseman Josh Adams (2-5, 2 R) home to give the Gators a 9-0 lead.
Tucker (3-6, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R) did what he could to keep the momentum going, smacking another two-run homer in the third. Florida led 11-0 at that point but added five more runs in the inning to hold a 16-0 advantage through three. Sophomore first baseman Austin Maddox was pulled in the top half of the inning after spraining his foot. His availability going forward is currently unknown.
Manhattan’s starter, John Soldinger, left the bases loaded with no one out upon exiting in the top of the third. He tossed two innings and surrendered an astonishing 15 earned runs on 16 hits with three homers, two walks, two hit batters and one strikeout.
Replacing Whitson, freshman RHP Keenan Kish was looking solid until the fifth inning when he gave up four hits and allowed three unearned runs, reducing the Jaspers’ deficit to 16-3. The Gators rallied to add another run in the seventh, which marked the end of Kish’s career-long outing of 3.2 innings. He struck out three and walked one.
With the victory, Florida moves on to the winner’s bracket to face Miami (37-21) on Saturday at 4 p.m. The game will air live on ESPNU and ESPN3.com. The winner will advance to the finals of the Gainesville Regional, while the loser will face the victor of the elimination game between Jacksonville-Manhattan at noon to determine who will take the other spot in the finals.