Gator Baseball Defeats Maryland in Season Opener
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida junior left-hander Bobby Poyner (Wellington, Fla.) (5.1 IP), junior right-hander Ryan Harris (Jupiter, Fla.) (1.2 IP) and sophomore left-hander Danny Young (Boca Raton, Fla.) (2.0 IP) combined on a three-hitter as the No. 20 Gators topped Maryland, 4-0, on Friday night at McKethan Stadium in the season opener for both squads. Poyner (1-0) established a career high with five strikeouts and Young collected his first career save as the Orange and Blue kicked off the program’s 100th season with its first shutout in a season opener since 2006 (10-0 over Cincinnati).
Held in check through the first two innings by UMD senior right-hander Jake Stinnett (0-1), the Gators plated three runs on three hits in the third inning to seize a 3-0 advantage. Freshman Peter Alonso (Tampa, Fla.) (1-for-2) singled up the middle in his first career at bat and freshman Buddy Reed (Finksburg, Md.) drew a one-out walk before sophomore Richie Martin (Brandon, Fla.) (2-for-4, two runs) singled through the left side to load the bases. A fielder’s choice by freshman Ryan Larson(Orlando, Fla.) (1-for-4) brought home Alonso with the initial run when the Terps’ catcher was unable to hold on to the relay throw and Reed was also able to score on the play on heads-up base-running. Junior Taylor Gushue (Boca Raton, Fla.) (1-for-3, two RBI) increased UF’s margin to three runs with a single into shallow center field to bring across Martin.
After freshman Brandon Lowe started Maryland’s sixth with a walk, Poyner (three hits allowed) completed his outing by having sophomore LaMonte Wade fly out to left field. Harris entered the contest and induced an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play.
Over five innings, Stinnett yielded three hits, three runs and totaled seven strikeouts, one shy of his personal best. Although junior Casey Turgeon (Palm Harbor, Fla.) (2-for-4) greeted freshman reliever Brandon Casas in the sixth with a double down the right-field line, he was stranded at second base.
The Gators tacked on another run in the eighth on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Gushue that scored Martin. Martin had led off with a base-hit through the left side and Larson and Turgeon followed with consecutive singles to fill the bags. Gushue sent an offering from sophomore Alex Robinson to the warning track in left field that finalized the 4-0 margin.
Quotes from head coach Kevin O’Sullivan
“For opening night, I thought our pitching was outstanding. We didn’t make any errors, which is a recipe for success. I thought Zack Powers and Richie Martin played outstanding defensively tonight. Tobias made a heck of a play on a charge play. Buddy Reed made a great play over his shoulder. It was a really good game all around. I think offensively we weren’t as sharp as we’re going to need to be. We had runners at second and didn’t move them. I was sitting there in the second inning thinking, ‘Who does the scheduling here?’ This guy’s throwing 90-94, it’s cutting, and it’s sinking. But, we like to schedule quality teams, and obviously Maryland has a really good club. We’ll see another really good arm tomorrow with a lot of velocity. It’s a good challenge for us but it’s always good to get the first win under your belt.”
On junior Bobby Poyner’s performance:
“I was talking to the younger pitchers at the end of the game. Bobby had second and third with nobody out, and the next thing you know you’ve got to make some big pitches. But, the thing about Bobby is he pitched his way out of it. He didn’t try to throw his way out of it. Bottom line is you’ve got to execute and you’ve got to concentrate a bit more. Obviously, that was a lift for us. A couple innings later he had a runner at third with one out, and he didn’t give up the run. He’s been pitching really well for us. He’s a veteran, and I felt comfortable going into tonight with him starting for us. It wasn’t a decision I second-guessed. He’s been throwing the ball really well, and he’s confident. I think the players trust him when he’s on the mound, and he threw the ball really well.”
On sophomore shortstop Richie Martin:
“He’s just a dynamic player offensively. The biggest difference with him this year is defensively the game has really slowed down for him. The other thing is he’s put on about 15 pounds and he’s much stronger. Last year, he didn’t drive the ball as much as we knew he would eventually. This year, he takes batting practice and he’s driving balls into the gap. The way he runs, he has potential to have a lot of extra base hits for us.”
Opening Night by the Numbers:
· UF is now 58-41-1 (.586) in 100 opening-day contests, including a 38-21-1 (.633) record at home.
· The Gators have emerged victorious in 18 of their last 23 home openers and have opened the season at home in 17 of the past 18 seasons.
· Head coach Kevin O’Sullivan improved to 6-1 (.857) in season openers.
· The Gators posted their first Opening Night shutout since 2006 (10-0 over Cincinnati).
· Batting cleanup, junior catcher Taylor Gushue drove in two of Florida’s four runs.
· Gushue increased Florida’s lead to 3-0 in the third inning when he looped a single in front of the center fielder, scoring sophomore Richie Martin from second.
· Gushue’s bases- loaded sacrifice fly in the eighth upped UF’s lead to 4-0 by scoring Martin from third.
· Martin produced a pair of base hits out of the leadoff spot and scored both times he reached base.
· The top four hitters in UF’s lineup combined for six hits and three RBI.
After bringing in the top-ranked recruiting class according to three major baseball publications, the Gators showcased the young talent by starting three freshmen:Peter Alonso (DH), Ryan Larson (LF) and Buddy Reed (CF). Reed became just the third rookie from UF since 2001 to debut in center field, joining Ben Harrison(2001) and Josh Adams (2008).
· Alonso recorded a single up the middle in the third inning in his first career at bat.
· Reed walked in his first career plate appearance in the third.
· Alonso and Reed scored the first two Gator runs of the game and the first of their careers on Larson’s fielder’s choice. Reed scored on the play due to an error on the catcher.
Results from the Mound:
· Junior Bobby Poyner became the first left-hander for the Gators to start Opening Night since Brian Johnson’s six-inning winning performance over USF on Feb. 18, 2011.
· Poyner was making his 10th career start after enjoying a successful summer with the Orleans (Mass.) Firebirds of the Cape Cod Baseball League.
· Junior Ryan Harris entered the game in the top of the sixth inning and caused a double play to end the inning. Harris pitched a scoreless 1.2 innings on 13 pitches.
· Sophomore Danny Young entered the game in the top of the eighth and retired all six batters he faced to earn his first career save.
· The three pitchers’ combined shutout was the first scoreless effort for Florida since a 4-0 win over No. 11 Ole Miss on March 30, 2013.
· Florida opened the season against a current member of the ACC for the second year in a row and were facing Maryland for the first time since a series on March 19-20, 1978.
· With tonight’s win, the Gators lead the all-time series, 2-1.
The Gators and Terrapins will meet in the second game of the series tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. In a matchup up of freshmen right-handers, Brett Morales (Tampa, Fla.) will be on the hill for the hosts against Maryland’s Mike Shawaryn.
Follow the Gators
The entire series is available on GatorVision through GatorZone.com and on the Gator IMG Sports Network with Jeff Cardozo and Steve Russell. Live stats for each game will be available on GatorZone.com and fans can also receive updates of each game on @GatorZoneBB, the official Twitter account of the Gator baseball team.
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