Florida baseball ends skid, routs FAMU, FAU

By Adam Silverstein
May 9, 2013

By Andrew Olson – OGGOA Contributor

Despite riding a wave of momentum (and an 11-2 record over the previous 13 games) into their latest weekend series, Florida Gators baseball (27-23, 12-12 SEC) failed its toughest test yet as it was swept on the road while taking on the No. 3 LSU Tigers (43-6, 19-5 SEC). Yet while Florida struggled away from home, the Gators got back into the swing of things as it closed its non-conference schedule this week with a pair of dominant wins over in-state opponents.

LSU snapped Florida’s streak of three-straight SEC series wins, taking all three games over the weekend in Baton Rogue, LA.

In the series opener, the Gators battled but came out on the short end of a 3-2 decision. Tigers ace Aaron Nola silenced his opponent’s bats and tossed his fourth-consecutive complete game in a 5-0 victory that clinched the series for the home team on Friday. Florida tried seven different pitchers in the series finale but none of them could contain LSU in what would eventually become a 18-6 blowout and series sweep.

The ESPNU Thursday Night Game of the Week creates a dilemma for SEC managers. Do you start your ace in game one or let him go Friday night (game two) to keep him in his regular routine? Tigers coach Paul Mainieri saved his top starter, Nola, for Friday, but Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan opted to go with his ace, junior right-hander Jonathon Crawford, in Thursday’s series opener. Crawford (5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K) did enough to keep Florida in the game but struggled with his command, only throwing 56 of his 98 pitches for strikes.

O’Sullivan’s strategy for game two was to try to counter a strong starter in Nola with a strong bullpen. Sophomore left-hander Bobby Poyner (4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB) started the second game for the Gators and looked on point through his first four innings before running into trouble in the fifth. With the Tigers already leading 1-0, Poyner gave up three-straight hits and an RBI ground out before being pulled with his team trailing 3-0. LSU tacked on two more runs in the eighth, and Nola finished his complete-game shutout by taking Florida down in order in the ninth.

In Saturday’s series finale, the Gators gave freshman LHP Danny Young (2.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER) an early lead, but the Tigers were unfazed and came back in a big way in an 18-6 rout. Florida went scoreless for seven-straight innings during the contest and saw junior LHP Daniel Gibson (1.0 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, BB, K) get shelled in a relief appearance. Only four runs scored by Florida in the ninth kept the final score from looking even uglier than it was through eight innings.

Back in Gainesville, FL, early in the week to start a five-game homestand, UF was able to boost its overall record with an explosive 22-1 win over the Florida A&M Rattlers (7-42) on Monday and a 7-1 win against the Florida Atlantic Owls (28-20) on Tuesday.

Against the Rattlers, senior shortstop Cody Dent (1/3, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB) hit his first career home run and was one of five Gators to smack three or more RBI. Freshman outfielder Christian Dicks (2/2, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R) joined Dent by smacking his first career round-tripper as well. Sophomore RHP Justin Shafer (6.0 IP, 2 H, ER, 8 K) also picked up his first win of the season.

Florida closed out its non-conference schedule by rallying to score seven-straight runs in a 7-1 win over Florida Atlantic. UF did most of its scoring in a six-run fifth, which was more than enough to earn Poyner (6.0 IP, H, ER, 2 BB, 2 K) his third victory.

Despite getting swept over the weekend, the Gators are in good position for postseason eligibility with their No. 19 RPI. With six games left, Florida is four games above the .500 threshold at 27-23 and should not run into much trouble in its last two SEC series against Auburn (28-19, 9-15 SEC) and Georgia (17-28, 5-16 SEC). The real challenge for the Gators continues to be attempting to find reliable second and third starters for the upcoming SEC Tournament and NCAA Regional.

Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press

One Comment

  1. Joe says:

    Really good piece Andrew. Considering who we have left to play, we should at worst go 4-2. We need to win a few in Hoover to build momentum for Regionals. Considering how we look at the start of the season, getting into a Regional is a major accomplishment, getting to a Super would be gravy. Our boys had a real up close look at a great team in LSU. I think it inspired them considering what they did to A&M and FAU. The one true bright spot about this team is they don’t let their last game, win or lose, influence the next one. Should be a great time at the Mac the next 2 weekends.

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